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New OFW IDs out soon, Bello says

04 July 2017

Sec Bello speaks during a visit in HK
The new identification card for overseas Filipino workers is set to be launched by the Department of Labor and Employment on July 12, and could be issued as early as the end of the month. This was according to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III during a briefing at Malacanang earlier today, July 4.

He said the new ID called iDOLE (ID of DoLE) will be given free to all OFWs registered with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

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

However, he did not give a definite date for its issuance, only saying in a separate video interview that the distribution could begin by the end of the month.

Bello also announced a plan to make the iDOLE serve as the worker’s passport and said DoLE is now talking with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Justice regarding this.

He did not give other details, but the scheme could be similar to the one adopted in places like Hong Kong and Singapore where residents are allowed to get in and out of their territories by simply swiping their national IDs at designated entry and exit points. However, passports are still required of foreign nationals entering other countries abroad.

As announced earlier, the ID will replace the overseas employment certificate or OEC, which has long caused problems for OFWs especially in places like Hong Kong where tens of thousands of workers go home at the same time during peak vacation periods.

The OEC was supposed to have been scrapped was early as August last year in line with a new POEA circular; instead applicants were required to obtain an exemption certificate through the Balik Manggagawa Online (BMOnline) system, which led to longer queues.

The new ID could also be used to transact with other government agencies like the Social Security System, Pag-IBIG Fund, and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation or Philhealth.

 “This is the best gift of our President to OFWs,” said the labor secretary.

Bello also said that another promise made by President Rodrigo Duterte during his dialogue with members of the Filipinos community in Hong Kong last May 13 would be fulfilled later this year.

Citing a statement from Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, Bello said the OFW bank will be launched in October this year. 

But in an interview with reporters during his Hong Kong visit, President Duterte himself said that the October deadline was “difficult” as the OFW Bank could not be set up through an executive order, by through a law passed by Congress.

The government’s plan is to convert the state-owned Postal Bank into a financial institution for OFWs. A Postal Bank officer said the government needs to infuse between Php2 billion to Php3 billion to implement the plan.

Also in the pipeline is the creation of a separate government department to handle the concerns of Filipino workers abroad.

There are about 2.4 million Filipino migrant workers worldwide. Remittances sent home through banks by OFWs hit a record $26.9 billion in 2016 from $25.61 billion during the previous year. –
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