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Colmenares vows to question mandatory insurance for OFWs

18 February 2019

Neri Colmenares

By Daisy CL Mandap

Senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares has promised to lead an inquiry into the legality of a Philippine Overseas Employment Administration resolution that requires all overseas Filipino workers to be covered by insurance.

Colmenares, who was previously Bayan Muna partylist representative in Congress, made the statement on Feb 9 during a forum with Filipino community representatives at Kowloon Union
Church in Jordan.

“Titingnan natin ang batas that allowed it,” said Colmenares when asked what could be done to reverse POEA Resolution No. 4 issued in August last year which requires “principals” (employers or recruitment agents) to pay for the insurance coverage of both new and rehired

But when told that the Resolution effectively repealed Republic Act 10022 which provides that only agency-hired OFWs leaving the country for the first time should be covered by mandatory insurance, Colmenares said the issue should immediately be raised at the next session of Congress.

Mandatory insurance was only among the issues raised during the forum with Colmenares, held on the eve of the Hong Kong launch of his senatorial bid. His campaign pitch is that he is the
“tunay na boses ng OFWs at pamilya sa Senado at Kongreso.”

But Colmenares promised to do more than just make speeches or promises. “We can make the best speeches pero walang kuwenta yan without your support,” he said.

The left-leaning politician minced no words when asked how he felt about the recent influx of thousands, maybe even millions, of Chinese nationals into the Philippines.
“Para sa akin, hindi mapagkakatiwalaan ang Chinese government,” he declared boldly, adding that the undocumented entry of a huge number of its citizens into the Philippines raises security concerns.

He also brushed off President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim that asserting the country’s right to the West Philippine Sea could result in war with the mighty China.

“Ang tanong ko, may basis ba siya? Parang anecdotal lang kasi,” he said, citing as examples Vietnam and Taiwan which never spoke of the same apprehension despite their consistent opposition to China’s claim on disputed territories.

“Kasi pag nilusob sila, magagalit ang international community,” he said.

Compared to these two territories, the Philippines has more reason not to fear China because of its big win in the arbitral court on the dispute over the West Philippine Sea.

“Tayo ang nanalo, pero bakit astang talo tayo?,” he asked.

He also reminded his audience that leftist lawmakers like him were the only ones to challenge the joint exploration deal between China and the Philippines during the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

They also questioned the highly anomalous deals involving Chinese firms like NBN and ZTE, and those involved in the construction of the North and South Expressways.

Colmenares said he will push for the creation of more jobs in the Philippines, instead of supporting the government’s labor export policy.

This, he said could be done through industrialization and real agrarian reform. Right now, he said the country is heavily reliant on foreign investments, to the extent that it has neglected its own industries.

What has been happening, he said, is that the Philippines is expected to produce raw materials and crops like copra and abaca, and buy its supply of finished products from other countries.

He asked, “Pako lang hindi natin ma-produce?” and “Magbenta ka ng copra, tapos bibili ka ng electric fan?,”

Colmenares urged Filipino voters to go beyond platforms and campaign promises, and see what the candidates have already done to promote their interests.

“Kami sa Bayan Muna, we walk the talk,” he said.

While he is not an absolutist, in the sense that he is willing to court the support of even big industries, he said he will never compromise on the people’s interests.

“Ang tama ay tama, ang mali ay mali,” he said.

Colmenares said he decided aspire for a seat in the Senate because he will have a “bigger voice” in the 24-seat chamber, unlike in the House of Representatives which has nearly 300 members.

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