COTABATO CITY—At least 40,000 workers are needed in rubber and palm plantations in Malaysia, a need for labor that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) hopes to fill, according to ARMM officials.
Myrah Alih, ARMM labor secretary, has been given the task to study an offer by Malaysia to hire workers from the five provinces of the ARMM —Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
Naguib Sinarimbo, ARMM executive secretary, said the sooner workers from the region could be sent to fill Malaysia’s need for labor, the sooner ARMM would benefit from it.
Trip to KL
Sinarimbo, who came from a one-day visit to Kuala Lumpur on Monday, said Alih is also trying to negotiate with Malaysia for workers from ARMM to be exempt from Malaysia’s recent policy to reduce monthly salaries for overseas Filipino workers by $100.
Sinarimbo said many unemployed men in ARMM are willing to work for $300 a month, or slightly less than P15,000 a month.
He said the Malaysian government wanted to fix the salaries of workers in its rubber and palm plantations at $300. The administration of ARMM Gov. Ansaruddin Adiong, however, is asking for an exemption from the wage ceiling for workers from the region.
Sinarimbo said idle men in ARMM are often targets for recruitment of terror and crime groups.
“Forty thousand ARMM residents employed in Malaysia as plantation workers is certainly good news,” Sinarimbo said.
Sinarimbo said his trip to Malaysia was upon invitation of Malaysian Parliament Speaker Seri Utama Pandikar Amin Bin Haji Mulia.
Mulia visited ARMM last year and reiterated his government’s promise to help bring progress to Muslim Mindanao.
“Providing employment is just a step toward that goal,” Sinarimbo said.
He said a plan to send Filipinos to fill a need for 36,000 household helps in Malaysia last year has been put on hold over questions on pay rates.
Malaysia wants to fix the monthly pay of Filipino domestic helps to $400.
Sinarimbo said the issue over pay has been resolved but the hiring of workers has been delayed.
“How we wish that one day, ARMM, if not the whole country, will be like Malaysia,” said Sinarimbo. Charlie C. Señase, Inquirer Mindanao