Department of Labour and Employment of Philippines announced on Friday (10 November) of the suspension of Filipinos to work overseas with effect 15 working days from 13 November to 1 December.
In a press release, it wrote, "In view of the persistent reports of illegal recruitment activities including direct hires, and in order to protect the public from the pernicious activities of certain unscrupulous individuals preying on Filipinos desiring to work overseas, the acceptance and processing of all new applications for Overseas Employment Certificates for all Overseas Filipino Workers, including direct hire workers, are hereby suspended."
The press release stated, "Excluded from the coverage of this suspension are those workers who are being hired by international organisations and members of the diplomatic corps, which includes members of royal families, and sea-based recruitment agencies."
It then added that an investigating team will conduct an investigation to get to the root of this malfeasance and will submit their official findings and recommendation.
"This Order shall be implemented by the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration for compliance by all land-based private recruitment agency," it wrote.
Mr Ramon Pastrana, labour attache at the Philippine embassy in Singapore, stated that the suspension applies to workers heading to all countries, not just Singapore.
Some employment agencies expressed shock as they had already booked plane tickets for domestic workers to fly to Singapore this week, in anticipation of the certificates being approved and maids who travelled to Manila from other provinces to prepare to head overseas are also stranded there.
He said, "We have to explain the situation to the employers, and ask them to not send the previous maid back first, make other childcare arrangements, or hire a maid from another country."
180,000 Filipinos are estimated to be working in Singapore in many profession. The suspension affects not just maids but also other workers, such as information technology professionals and nurses.
According to the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) president, K. Jayaprema, the certificate is the last step after the contract has been verified at the Philippine embassy here, and then the maid would have attended pre-departure briefings in the Philippines.
It said that her group has appealed to the Philippine authorities to at least process applications where the maids have completed the rest of the process and are just waiting for the final green light to leave.