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No more mandatory medical checks, but OFWs told to keep eye on health

22 January 2019

Labatt dela Torre scraps mandatory health check after consulting Filcom leaders

By The SUN

Labor Attaché Jalilo dela Torre has abandoned a plan to require a mandatory pre-employment check-up of all Filipino domestic workers following a consultation on Jan 20 with community leaders who mostly opposed the idea.

But Labatt dela Torre remains firm in saying a medical check-up is still a must for all workers.

“Sometimes, good intentions are not enough. But the need for medical check-up is still a priority need for our workers,” Labatt Dela Torre said.

“Whether or not imposed as a pre-requirement for verification of contracts, or requiring employers during the course of the contract, the community must find a way to ensure that workers who have unhealthy conditions are given the opportunity to get themselves checked out by a medical professional,” he said in a message to The SUN a day after the meeting.


The labor official issued the controversial advisory to agencies on Jan. 8 imposing the mandatory check-up as an additional requirement for contract processing of all categories of helpers.

But he recalled the advisory within hours of issuing it after hearing about the strong initial opposition by some leaders.

“Because of certain concerns that have been aired, we deemed it best to withdraw the memorandum first and until the consultations review so that we can see whether it can still be done with some refinements or totally withdrawn,” Dela Torre said at the start of the meeting.

About 40 Filcom leaders packed the small conference room of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Wanchai where the meeting was held.

Foremost of the fears the Filcom leaders cited was the likelihood that a worker who does not get a “fit to work” certificate would be terminated.


Many employers still allow their helpers to continue working even if they have ailments, but now they can use the mandatory check-up and “fit to work” requirements as an excuse to fire an incumbent worker of reject an applicant, the leaders said.

The leaders said it would be better to require the mandatory check-up “within”, rather than “before” the contract. But they agreed this would be difficult to implement as it would require the amendment of the standard employment contract through legislation.

Eman Villanueva of Unifil-Migrante Hong Kong acknowledged that the advisory was prompted by the labor attaché’s concern about the worrying state of health of workers, but added that the official did not seem to realize that the move could lead to job losses.

“Ang gusto natin kasi, yung medical checkup with the (framework) na kung paano tutulungan ang maysakit,” Villanueva said.


Cynthia Abdon-Tellez of the Mission for Migrant Workers concurred, saying the advisory had the effect of threatening workers’ job security although it was good-intentioned.

Unifil’s chair, Dolores Balladares-Pelaez said many OFWs believe that ailing workers who benefit from free or cheap medical services while working here would certainly lose their jobs if they were to submit themselves to a mandatory health check-up.

Other leaders echoed the fear, and said getting laid off would lead to more woes for the worker as medical care in the Philippines is very expensive.

A cancer patient from the cancer support group Filmcass said that if the mandatory check-up becomes a requirement for contract renewal, the Consulate would effectively be the first to reject them.   

Following the meeting, Labatt Dela Torre said he had already issued another advisory to the agencies officially recalling the Jan 8 order after listening to the community’s concerns.
Labatt's latest advisory permanently canceling the mandatory health checks
He had issued the controversial checkup requirement after seeing disturbing data gathered during the POLO’s Health-Wise free medical check-up program that began last October.

The results showed the average number of OFWs with elevated levels of blood pressure and elevated levels of blood sugar exceeded the national levels in the Philippines.


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