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Filipino workers rally for junking of mandatory insurance

31 January 2019

Labatt Jalilo dela Torre accept the petition calling for the scrapping of OWF compulsory insurance
(Photo by Migrante Hong Kong)

By The SUN

Workers led by the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Unifil-Migrante HK) marched to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Wanchai on Jan 17 to call for the scrapping of the mandatory insurance that the government plans to impose on all OFWs.

The marchers tried to get Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre’s position on the issue, but he said he wouldn’t be drawn to make a stand “at baka ako’y matapon na naman kung saan”.

He was referring to his six-month recall to the home office last year, which was reversed only after Filipino community leaders rallied to get him returned to Hong Kong.

But Labatt Dela Torre assured the protesters that their sentiments would be relayed to Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

Unifil chairwoman Dolores Balladares said the new exaction would be in addition to the insurance cover that overseas workers are required to pay for, such as Social Security System, Pag-IBIG, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and PhilHealth.

“Patung-patong na ang binabayaran nating mga insurance, at daradagan pa ng compulsory OFW insurance,” Balladares said before more than 100 workers who joined the march from Chater Road to the POLO offices in Wanchai.

She said the additional fee that is supposed to be charged to the employers could potentially increase friction between them and the workers, who might just end up losing their jobs.

Labatt Dela Torre confirmed during a meeting at the Consulate last November that the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration had agreed to impose the mandatory insurance on every two-year work contract, but the implementing rules were not yet ready.

The insurance premium that is currently collected only from first-time OFWs, costs  US$144, or $1,200 for every land-based worker.

Balladares said more than 150 OFW groups had already signed a petition for the dumping of the insurance plan as of Jan 17 and that support was growing.  

The POEA Board issued Resolution No 4 in August last year which requires “principals” (employers or recruitment agents) to pay for the insurance coverage of both new and rehired OFWs.

The certificate of insurance will be among the requirements OFWs must submit before they could be documented by the POEA. 

Previously, Republic Act 8042 provided that only agency-hired OFWs leaving the country for the first time, should be covered by mandatory insurance.

At the rally, Labatt Dela Torre took the opportunity to explain why the equally controversial mandatory pre-employment health check he had initiated had to be recalled.

He said the mandatory health check-up was prompted by alarming findings of the POLO’s ongoing “Project Health-Wise” that the diabetes rate among the Filipino community in Hong Kong is greater than the national rate in the Philippines.

“Na-alarm kami and we thought that this might be the best way to push the promotion of the health evaluation. Upon reflection and consulting with the various community groups dito sa Hong Kong, nakita namin na nangangamba yung ibang mga workers na baka gamitin ito ng mga employers na reason for not renewing or terminating so many,” Labatt Dela Torre said.

“We appreciate the psychology behind the fear, so, minarapat natin na iatras muna but ipapagpatuloy natin yung ating Project Health-Wise and look for a way na i-promote maybe through a voluntary or a mandatory undertaking from employers na bigyan nila ang ating workers ng pagkakataon na lumabas during the right time para makapag-undergo ng medical checkup.”


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