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OFWs hit move to make employers pay for iDOLE

14 July 2017

By Daisy CL Mandap

Thinning OEC crowd at POLO.
Migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong have reacted strongly against the Philippine government’s announcement that their employers will have to pay for the new OFW ID called iDOLE, which was launched in Malacanang on July 12.

“The processing of the i-DOLE would be shouldered by the employers; hence, OFWs need not pay for the cost of the ID, which would be delivered by PhilPost to their respective addresses,” said Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella in a statement.

The announcement was immediately criticized by Eman Villanueva of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body who said in a Facebook post that this was contrary to assurances from Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III that the ID would be given away free to OFWs.

“Ang sabi ni Sec Silvestre Bello III ay “LIBRE” ang OFW ID (iDOLE). Tapos, ngayon sasabihing ‘employers ang magbabayad’? Ano ito, joke lang?,” an irate Villanueva said.

He and another AMCB officer, Dolores Balladares, met Secretary Bello during his visit to Hong Kong in May, and he assured them that the iDOLE, which was meant to replace the much-maligned overseas employment certificate, would be free of charge.

Bello repeated the assurance when he held a media briefing on July 4 to announce the impending launch of the OFW ID. He said the ID will be given free to all OFWs.

“All we need is iyong inventory if all the bonafide OFWs on the basis of which our POEA, in conjunction with Department of Labor, will start processing the IDs,” he said.

Villanueva said making employers pay for the ID was just another ploy by the government to make money off its overseas workers, and must be resisted.

At the Malacanang launch, the Department of Labor and Employment said it initially printed 200 cards, which it called as the OFWs’ exit pass from the country.

The government will be printing at least four million IDs to cover both active and inactive OFWs.

Secretary Bello said inactive OFWs just need to submit an old record of employment abroad in applying for i-DOLE.

“We have to prepare at least four million ID cards to cover even those not working abroad anymore because when you become an OFW, you become an OFW permanently,” Bello explained.

This means OFWs will no be required to get an OEC at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) upon entering or exiting the country. The i-DOLE will now serve as their permanent pass.

Previously, overseas workers had to present an OEC exemption certificate at Philippine airports so they would be allowed to return to their jobs abroad. This document also served as their proof of exemption from travel tax or the airport terminal fee.

OFWs were mostly critical of the OEC which forced them to endure long lines and wait for hours at labor offices abroad every time they went home for a vacation.

Bello earlier said these inconveniences experienced by OFWs when getting OEC will now be “things of the past.”

“They (OFWs) won’t have to go to the POEA every time to get their OEC. All they have to do is show their iDOLE and that will serve as their license to go abroad and go back anytime they want to,” he said.

The ID system for overseas workers, which was approved by President Rodrigo Duterte last February, also features access to the holder’s records with government agencies such as the Social Security System and Pag-IBIG.

Bello said the DOLE would coordinate with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ)  through the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to see if the i-DOLE could later on serve as passports to OFWs.

“Given another six months, we are trying to adopt a system that this i-DOLE can serve as their passport. We will talk with the DFA and of course the DOJ, through the Bureau of Immigration, so that the i-DOLE could be used as a passport,” Bello told reporters in a briefing on July 4. – with reports from Manila

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