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Phl poised to require insurance for all new and returning OFWs

28 September 2018

By Daisy CL Mandap

All returning overseas Filipino workers, even those who have renewed their contracts with the same employers, may soon be required to take out an insurance that costs USD144 (or HK$1,200), before being allowed to return to their work sites.

This is in line with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA)’s Governing Board Resolution No 4, signed on Aug 17 by five officials led by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

According to a stamp on the directive, it was supposed to have been circulated to concerned agencies on Sept. 4, but will take effect only 15 days after the publication of its implementing guidelines.

OFWs in Central: Soon all of them will be required to buy insurance.
But when asked when the resolution is likely to be implemented, Labor Attache Nida Romulo said she had not received any instructions relating to it.

Labatt Romulo also said she had read reports that Secretary Bello might visit Macau soon, but was not sure if the trip would include Hong Kong. She was not sure, either, if the POEA Resolution would be discussed if he does visit Hong Kong.

Migrant workers and employers were, however, quick to dismiss the insurance requirement as unnecessary, as Hong Kong already mandates employers to insure their domestic helpers to cover medical and repatriation costs should these become necessary.

Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chair of Unifil-Migrante Hong Kong, also said the insurance requirement was just another way for the government to further milk migrant workers.

“Nabigla kami sa lumabas na memo ng POEA - Board Resolution no. 04 na magiging mandatory na ang pagkuha ng insurance ng mga OFWS. Nakakagalit dahil gatasang baka talaga ang turing sa mga OFWs, dagadag pahirap na naman ito sa amin, dahil ngayon ay sobrang krisis na kami at aming pamilya dahil sa patuloy na inflation at pagtaas ng mga gastusin at bayarin sa Pilipinas, (pero) di naman tumataas ang sahod,” said Balladares-Pelaez.

In addition, she said the new exaction could spark tension with employers, and might even lead to domestic workers losing their jobs.

“Kung sukdulan na ang galit ng employer sa dami ng kanyang gastusin at bayarin sa pagkuha ng Filipino domestic worker, maaring hindi na kunin ng employer ang Filipino worker at mawalan kami ng trabaho,” she added.

Doris Lee of the employers’ group Open Door, also expressed displeasure at the new obligation they are being made to bear, calling it redundant.

“The Philippine government requirement that employers of Filipino domestic workers must pay $1,200 per contract renewal for insurance is a duplication of existing employer insurance requirement under Hong Kong law,” said Lee.

“If the Philippine government’s primary aim is to ensure sufficient protection of its citizens, and the Hong Kong insurance is not adequate, the proper approach should be to negotiate with the Hong Kong government about improving the coverage of the Hong Kong insurance. We hope the Philippine government can eliminate this redundancy, and reduce burdens on employers as well as (probably) workers who may sometimes be forced by their employers to bear this cost.”

Under the POEA resolution, all returning OFWs, meaning those who have gone back to the Philippines after renewing their contracts with the same employer, or have moved to another, must register with POEA.

And to do this, they must provide a passport valid for at least 6 months, valid visa, and a certificate of insurance coverage similar to that required of those leaving for their first jobs abroad.

For land-based workers, the two-year policy is pegged by the insurance companies at US$144 (almost Php8,000 at current exchange rates), while those who work at sea must pay US$200.

Surprisingly, Resolution 4 kept referring to RA 8042, even if it has already been repealed by RA 10022, which requires only newly hired OFWs to secure insurance from a select group of companies vetted by the Insurance Commission of the Philippines.

The law has clearly taken away the compulsory nature of the insurance for rehires, or those renewing their contracts with the same employer.

Sec 34A of RA 10022 provides: “For migrant workers classified as rehires, name hires or direct hires, they may opt to be covered by this insurance coverage by requesting their foreign employers to pay for the cost of the insurance coverage or they may pay for the premium themselves.”

Another apparent anomaly is that a Republic Act, which had gone through rigorous scrutiny by members of Congress, is now being effectively repealed by a mere POEA Resolution.

If and when POEA manages to get the new directive implemented, it can expect vigorous opposition from the migrant workers.

“Hindi kami papayag na magpatuloy ito, kaya maaga pa lang magsasagawa na kami ng protesta sa mandatory insurance. Kailangan magkaisa at magtulong-tulong ang mga OFWs dito para labanan at itakwil ang panibagong pangongotong na ito sa mga OFWs,” Balladares-Pelaez vowed.

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