More than 200 Filipino domestic workers in Singapore sought help and advice from a non-governmental organization on Sunday as they feared the consequences of not being able to pay off their existing debts after the country imposed new limits which barred them from taking out further loans.

Starting from November 30, foreigners in Singapore earning less than S$10,000 (US$7,294) a year can borrow only up to S$1,500 (US$1,094) from all licensed moneylenders combined, the Shin Min Daily News reported.

Pastor Billy Lee, founder and executive director of Blessed Grace Social Services (BGSS), and 12 volunteers, on December 9 met a total of 209 Filipinas, at least 38 of whom had resorted to borrowing from loan sharks.

Of the 38, the biggest borrowers had taken out S$4,700 (US$3,428) in loans from six moneylenders, while four women had even traveled to Johor Baru, Malaysia, to source additional loans to make payments on existing debts owed to Singapore moneylenders, Lee explained.

A Filipina domestic worker named Cruz, 45, who has worked in Singapore for seven years and had taken out a total of S$1,800 in loans from three moneylenders this year, sought help from Lee who negotiated with the lenders on her behalf.

Unable to pay more than S$100 per month to each moneylender, Cruz was permitted to pay back S$50 a month for the next eight months after Lee’s intervention.

The Filipina was also grateful when her employer still listened to her reasons, accepted her apology and gave her a chance after a surprise visit from a moneylender.

Lee said BGSS had to stop accepting new cases as resources were limited and it would take time to help the current batch of 209 workers to negotiate new repayment plans with the creditors.