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Protest to greet Bello’s return to HK

26 January 2017

By The SUN staff  

A protest against the compulsory online registration of overseas Filipino workers applying for exemption to the overseas employment certificate (OEC) is set to greet Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on his visit to Hong Kong on Jan. 29.

The protesters will also urge the scrapping of the airport terminal fee integration in plane tickets bought by OFWs.

Bello is scheduled to attend the launch at the Consulate of a mobile phone application designed to track OFWs anywhere in the world, and link them to government authorities.

The new app was designed and produced by Myrna Padilla, a former OFW in Hong Kong turned entrepreneur, who donated it to the Philippine government.

Militant OFW leaders told The SUN that they will hold a protest rally against the new OEC guidelines and the terminal fee integration in time for Bello’s arrival at the Consulate at 10am. No other details were given.

The protesters, led by United Filipinos – Migrante Hong Kong, have long advocated for the scrapping of the OEC, which is required of all Filipino workers departing or returning to their job sites abroad.
During Bello’s first visit to Hong Kong as labor chief in September, he unveiled new guidelines for the OEC, which included provisions for exempting OFWs returning to the same employers and job sites abroad from paying the $20 fee.

However, all OFWs still need to register with the Balik Manggagawa Online (BMO) site before getting the exemption, a process deemed tedious and unnecessary by most.

The mandatory registration resulted in thousands of OFWs queuing up to get their online registration validated at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office ahead of flying back home, especially during the recent pre-holiday rush.  

The protesters are also calling for the restoration of the terminal fee exemption granted by law to all OFWs.

Under present rules implemented by former Manila International Airport chief Jose Honrado, all passengers departing from any Philippine airport are required to pay the terminal fee as part of their plane tickets.  OFWs are only given the option of applying for a refund of the fee that they paid before flying out of the Philippines.

Labor Attache Jalilo de la Torre said Secretary Bello will arrive in Hong Kong on Saturday, a day after returning to Manila from Rome where he attended peace talks with self-exiled Filipino communist leaders as head of the government negotiating panel.

Bello will reportedly have a light schedule, mainly coming just to launch the app with Padilla. He and Padilla are due to fly back to Manila Sunday afternoon. Shortly before departing, he will meet with the protest leaders on their demands.

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