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False promises

10 August 2017

By Daisy C.L. Mandap

Overseas Filipino workers will be the first to say how frustrating it has been to rely on government promises to improve their lot.

Proof of this was the government’s announcement that the new OFW ID, also known as iDOLE, would not be given free as promised, but would actually cost several times more than the much-maligned OEC which it’s meant to replace.

The shock announcement came barely two months after Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello assured militant OFW leaders in Hong Kong that the ID would not cost anything as it was a gift from President Rodrigo Duterte.

Secretary Bello also said that the distribution of the cards would begin at the end of the month, or July 31.

He reiterated these promises at a press conference on July 4 in Manila.

Then came the ID’s launch in Malacanang on July 12, and the story was drastically changed, enraging OFW leaders.

An official press statement said the ID was not actually free but would be charged to employers, with recruitment agencies acting as some sort of a guarantor to ensure that the fee is not passed on to the workers.

Hong Kong OFWs who were told a different story by Secretary Bello were understandably irked, calling the introduction of the ID as just another ploy to skim money off them.

But in yet another twist to the story, Bello later reiterated in an interview with social media practitioner Mocha Uson that the ID was indeed free, and that reports saying otherwise were all “tsismis”.

Incensed OFW leaders were not, however, impressed by the flip-flop and have vowed to protest any move to turn the ID into another money-making imposition.

Which could be just as as well, since the OEC itself had been the subject of another government gaffe earlier.

Shortly after the new administration took power, labor officials led by Bello revealed that the OEC was being scrapped under new POEA guidelines, in response to a long-standing call by OFWs.

But hardly had the ink dried on the new POEA rules when a clarification was made- the OEC was actually not being scrapped, but OFWs could apply to be exempted from it by enroling with BMOnline.

To this day, it remains unclear why the OEC is still there when all OFWs are technically exempt from obtaining it.

Comes now the latest mind-boggling requirements imposed on Filipinos abroad who want to send goodies back home using balikbayan boxes. While Customs officials say that the new rules are being enforced to extend a privilege to overseas Filipinos, the impositions suggest otherwise.

The idea originally was to raise the maximum value of the goods allowed to be sent home by Filipinos living abroad, and to stop customs from arbitrarily opening the boxes. Given the difficulty of harmonizing these two conditions, Customs inevitably came up with such bizarre rules as requiring receipts for newly bought items, and making senders  put down a price for each article.

The end result, obviously, is that the sender feels less privileged now than when the old rules were in place.

Given all these, the government should get its act together, and be more upfront with its plans. It’s time our long-suffering OFWs got the just rewards long promised them.

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