A group of newly arrived Filipino domestic workers will not have to repay an illegal $2,938 (US$374) loan made to each of them by three employment agencies in Hong Kong and their Manila counterparts.

The workers said staff at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) called them on Wednesday to say that an agency had waived the loans from a finance company which the maids were told to pay, the sunwebhk.com reported.

However, Labor Attaché Nida Romulo said on Thursday she was not aware of the loan waiver. She said she did not want to speculate on the report and preferred to hear it from the workers themselves.

Three Filipino domestic workers complained to the Philippine Consulate in late July after suspecting collusion between Philippine agencies and their Hong Kong partners. The firms asked the workers to take loans from financing companies.

The Filipinos said they received letters of demand from a moneylender named Mutual Honour (Hong Kong) Ltd, saying they has to repay the loans they signed with the employment agency in the Philippines, but with a 22% mark-up.

Tony Chan, the managing director of Pacific Jet Consultants in Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui, told the workers that the loan was supposed to pay for further training on arrival in Hong Kong, but the workers said no such training took place.

The workers also claimed that the loan was on top of other illegal fees reportedly collected from them in the Philippines. On Wednesday, the domestic workers were told by a staff member from POLO that Chan offered to cancel the loans.

The group expressed their concerns for a batch of about 18 other workers who are still in Manila waiting for their flight to Hong Kong. They said the workers are now being told to pay cash up front for the extra charge, or they would not be able to fly out to Hong Kong.

Pacific Jet, Sacred Heart International Consultants and Waytech Consultants, which occupy adjacent rooms in Cameron Commercial Building in Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui, were named by at least 19 workers as the Hong Kong counterparts of the Philippine agencies that deployed them to Hong Kong between April 1 and May 31.

They identified the Philippine agencies as iEmploy Manpower Services, Infinity Manpower Services and MIP International Manpower Services.

Read: New maids arriving in HK complain of illegal loan scheme