Unscrupulous education advisers engaging in education trafficking: Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand
Filipinos know no better home overseas than New Zealand, Jesus S Domingo adds
The Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand Jesus S Domingo, who has completed almost half-a-year in this country, and is known for his hands-on approach in dealing with issues, was in Christchurch recently to interact with local Filipino leaders including Delia Richards of the Philippine Culture and Sports.
“We want to promote Philippines tourism among Kiwis and attract New Zealand businesses to invest in our country. This can be done when our local leaders all over New Zealand take up the role of what I call volunteer diplomats. To aid them in carrying out such interactions with the support of the Philippines Embassy, we have set up a virtual diplomatic leadership academy,” he noted.
The Ambassador also shared his vision of developing a two level orientation course - basic and advanced - for the new Filipino migrants coming here. “All the basic information is already available with Immigration NZ. We just have to customise it as per the requirements of Filipinos. The basic level can be a general orientation while the advanced level can deal specifically with the requirements of the dairy sector, tradesmen, or tertiary education. Later on, these courses can be used for the entire migrant community in New Zealand.”
On the suggestion by Richards that such an orientation course if accredited by NZQA can help the migrants in securing jobs, the ambassador expressed his support and noted that this can be the long-term goal.
The Migrant Times caught up with Domingo for a detailed chat on various issues concerning Filipino migrants in New Zealand.
You have been in New Zealand for six months now. How has been your experience till now?
It’s been wonderful to say the least.
Let me say this with some confidence – as not only have I been a diplomat myself posted in Saudi Arabia earlier but I also grew up under the foreign service in Germany and US - Filipinos know no better home overseas than they do here in New Zealand. Its a beautiful multicultural country which has given a beautiful welcome to all Filipino migrants.
So what do you think are the reasons for this?
I think it is the temperament of Kiwis who are welcoming and gentle - both Pakehas and Maori. We see a wonderful blending of the Commonwealth and Polynesian culture here. We see a range of ethnicities including Indians and Chinese here. We see a sense of harmony and an evolving sense of belonging here.
And I would like to believe that Filipinos have integrated into and enriched this country even more.
As you are the representative of the Philippines Government here, can you throw some light on the bilateral relationship of the two countries?
I would say it is an excellent and growing relationship. And I am glad to note that this year we are celebrating 50 years of our mutual cooperation. The most visible facet of this relationship are the 50,000 or so Filipinos living here, which is almost one percent of the total population.
While New Zealand had always been an attractive destination for Filipinos, the boom really happened in the last five or ten years with the expansion of dairy industry and the Christchurch rebuild.
Another important contributor to the bilateral relationship are the international students from Philippines who come here to take advantage of the world class education and as a pathway to ultimately settling here. But this also brings its own challenges, which we call education trafficking.
Most numerous victims are from India, of course, but Philippines is also very much up there.
We have to understand that exploitation starts from our home countries. So the Philippine Government is working very closely with New Zealand authorities as well as the education providers to put an end to it.
Unscrupulous immigration agents taking advantage of students from their home countries and misrepresenting what's on offer is the problem.
In one of our earlier interviews, Ashburton’s Mayor Angus Mckay told us that you told him that more 24 months visas are being issues to Filipino dairy workers now so that they become eligible for New Zealand's public health. Can you please elaborate on that?
Yes. My understanding from our interactions with various New Zealand Government officials is that this is happening. But I need to see facts and figures to be assured that the ground reality has changed.
What will really help us is to have a Philippine Labour Attaché in New Zealand. Right now we have one in Australia who looks after here as well. But with so many Filipino workers migrating to New Zealand for work, having one here is a necessity now and we are working towards it.
You have been interacting with lots of Filipinos in the last six months. What’s your feedback from them with regards to finding gainful employment in New Zealand. Do they face discrimination in finding jobs?
As I mentioned earlier New Zealand has the least amount of racism in the developed world and I am not being politically correct here but this is the feedback I have gathered till now.
We have to understand that employers are facing tightening of regulations which might sometimes result in some migrants facing repeated rejections.
But I must add that I am still new to this country and am continuously getting feedback from the community.
Finally, how do you think Filipinos can get better integrated in the New Zealand society?
One thing that can help, and I strongly encourage it, is getting Filipinos involved in the political process of New Zealand. As far as my understanding goes we have three candidates - one each from Green and Labour and one independent from the community - who are standing in the local elections this month. This is a very good sign. Those who are not standing, I would request them all to at least vote. This is one way of integrating better.
Nats ethnic push
Looking towards the next year’s general elections and giving more political representation to ethnic communities, the ruling National Party had organised a Pinoy Go National event in Christchurch with the Ambassador attending.
Paulo Gracia who is one of the potential candidates from the Filipino community for the next year’s election addressed the gathering which was attended by several of the Party’s MPs and ministers. Gracia who is a barrister solicitor and the Consulate General of the Philippines Embassy in Auckland moved to New Zealand in 2005.
Married with four daughters, Gracia got involved with the National Party in 2009 and jumped into active politics one year ago. “Firstly I want to make it clear that I am not a National Party candidate for next year’s elections as yet. But I am interacting with the Filipino community all over the country to discuss and gauge their aspirations of having a Filipino voice in the Parliament. We have been to public meetings in Auckland, Wellington, Rotorua and Bay of Plenty, and will be going to Hamilton and Tauranga soon,” he said.
On the question of his priorities if and when he goes to the Parliament, Gracia noted, “The first issue is of scores of Filipino students coming to New Zealand to study but in the process getting cheated by immigration agents. We need to regulate this sector properly. My second message is to emphasise on the strong familial bonds that we have in the Philippines. I think New Zealand in general can benefit a lot from Filipino family values.
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