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HK OFWs protest 4-fold hike in PhilHealth premium

19 January 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

Members of the Rage Coalition took part in the march from Central to Admiralty
Around 200 Filipino migrant workers marched from Central to Admiralty today, Jan 19, to protest against a new law that forces them to pay for national health insurance that is more than four times what they are currently paying.

Under Republic Act 11223, migrant workers are mandated to pay 3% of their monthly salary for PhilHealth starting this year.

For a HK OFW whose minimum pay is roughly Php30,000 a month, the monthly premium is Php900, or P10,800 a year, a whopping 450% increase from the Php2,400 collected from them in past years.

Little Lila and Rosa Carnay and Elca Villanueva (in stroller) joined the march to Admiralty
Eman Villanueva, chair of Bayan Hong Kong and Macau, blasted at what he called the Philippine government’s practice of burdening migrant workers with its obligation of providing health care to its citizens.
“Ipinapasa ng gobyerno ang kanyang responsibilidad sa balikat ng migranteng manggagawa,” Villanueva said outside the Philippine Consulate in Admiralty, where the protesters gathered after marching from Chater Road in Central.

He said President Rodrigo Duterte’s government has no funds for its so-called universal health care program for Filipinos because it has allocated a big chunk of its annual budget to pork barrel for its supporters in the legislature.

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It is also not true that PhilHealth members get to be treated for free, said Villanueva, citing a HK OFW who only got a Php3,000 discount from the Php70,000 that she was charged recently when her son was admitted to a hospital in the Philippines.

“Nasaan ang pera ng taumbayan?,” he asked. “Kailangan nila ng pera dahil sa ‘build, build, ‘build kaya sila ay ‘kotong, kotong, kotong,’ at ‘utang, utang, utang’. In response, he said Filipinos should “laban, laban, laban” any attempt to make them pay for the government’s obligations.
Balladares with PhilHealth advisory showing chart for the higher fees
Lead organizer of the march, Dolores Balladares of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, earlier called out in her speech on Chater Road critics who say her group was making up the story about the four-fold increase in PhilHealth payments.

She held aloft a chart based on PhilHealth’s own advisory showing contributions rising gradually from 3% of the monthly salary to 5% by 2024. The advisory also states that departing OFWs will be charged Php2,400 initially, but will have to pay the balance of what’s due them over the next six months.

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“Paano kung wala kang pambayad? O kapos ang iyong kinikita, lalo na ngayon, may mga biktima ng kalamidad?” Balladares asked, in reference to OFWs affected by last week’s devastating eruption of Taal Volcano in Batangas.

Balladares said that PhilHealth is an insurance, so whatever is paid for it each year is lost, whether or not members or their dependents benefited from their coverage by getting medical treatment.
Protesters say mandatory PhilHealth is another 'kotong' by the Duterte administration
Alann Cayosa-Mas, chair of Filipino Luzon Active Groups and co-founder of Rise Against Government Exactions or Rage, lamented that from being voluntary, PhilHealth membership is now not only mandatory, but also costs so much more.

Shiela Tebia of Gabriela Hong Kong said President Duterte is to blame for all the forcible collection being made from OFWs now because all of them were implemented under his watch.

RA 11223 became law on February 20, 2019 after it was signed by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tito Sotto as Senate President, and President Duterte. It took effect on Dec. 7 last year, 15 days after the publication of its Implementing Rules and Regulations.

The groups are also opposing the mandatory payment of Php2,400 monthly to the Social Security System implemented last year, the long-standing forced contribution to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and a reported plan to make payments to the Pag-IBIG Fund also compulsory.

A bill that would have required all OFWs to pay for mandatory insurance was scrapped at the House of Representatives last October, but the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has a similar plan that has yet to be pushed aside.

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