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Filcom to meet on mandatory SSS, insurance

02 November 2018

By Daisy CL Mandap

The Consulate is set to call a meeting of Filipino community leaders on Nov. 11 to discuss concerns about the impending collection of mandatory insurance and SSS contributions from all overseas Filipino workers, who could end up shelling up to $400 per month for both fees.

This was disclosed by Eman Villanueva, secretary general of United Filipinos – Migrante Hong Kong, who said the meeting was requested by his group from Consul General Antonio A. Morales, during a meeting last week.

Unifil has been protesting the impending collections, saying the Philippine government has turned overseas Filipino workers into milking cows.

“Parang tokhang na tuloy ito, papatayin ang mga OFWs sa dami ng mga bayarin. Bakit ayaw tantanan ang mga OFWs?,” Unifil chairperson Dolores Balladares-Pelaez said in a separate interview earlier.

Under the proposed Social Security Act of 2018, all OFWs will have to pay monthly contributions of between Php960 and Php2,400 in mandatory SSS payments.

The bill has already been passed by both houses of Congress, and is just awaiting the signature of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

Social Security System representative Lester Paul Mata says they expect the enforced collection to start early next year.

He clarified that OFWs can opt to pay only the minimum monthly contribution of Php960, although the corresponding benefits will be smaller than if they paid the Php2,4000 maximum.

On top of the enforced SSS payments, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration passed a resolution on Aug. 28, providing for the collection of mandatory insurance from OFWs each time they sign a job contract, or when renewing existing ones.

Mandatory insurance is currently only enforced for OFWs taking up their first employment abroad. The premium for two years is pegged at US$144 for land-based workers, and US$200 for seafarers.

Unlike the mandatory SSS collection, however, the POEA Resolution could take a longer time to enforce because its implementing rules have yet to be drafted and published as required by law.

Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre, whose office will effectively be tasked to ensure all OFWs are covered by insurance before they are allowed to process a new work contract, said he has yet to receive instructions on how, or when, the new measure would take effect.

Still, Unifil says protests against the two enforced collections should be made now because it would be difficult to reverse them once they got enforced.

The group also hit out at the apparent haste with which both measures were drafted, and the lack of consultations with OFWs, who will bear the brunt of the additional fee collection.

Villanueva said his group is not against paying for social security or insurance coverage per se, because some OFWs might regard them beneficial, but against making them mandatory.

“For people who can afford the additional expenses and consider them beneficial, fine, but don’t force everyone to pay because there are many who are on a tight budget and may even be still paying off loans incurred so they could work abroad,” said Villanueva.

“Wala ding security of tenure ang mga OFW, so maaaring ang binayad nila ay mapunta sa wala.”

Unifil has been conducting Sunday briefings with migrant workers so they are better informed about the impact and implications of the proposed new fees.

Also on the agenda for the upcoming Filcom meeting, said Villanueva,  is the call of Unifil and its allied organizations for higher wages, better working conditions and welfare provisions for foreign domestic workers, which they want the Consulate to adopt.

On the part of the Consulate officers, they reportedly want to formally introduce their newly arrived colleagues to Filcom members.

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