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HK Filcom groups unite vs. new mandatory fees for OFWs

27 October 2019

Logo of the new coalition which is made up of some of the biggest Filcom groups in Hong Kong

By The SUN

Leaders of 15 Filipino migrant organizations in Hong Kong have formed a coalition and are seeking a meeting with Consul General Raly Tejada to discuss their opposition to what they call “excessive government fees” imposed on them.

In a solidarity meeting on Sunday, Oct 27, at Statue Square in Central, the leaders who set up Rise Against Government Exaction (Rage) Hong Kong said the Duterte government burdens OFWs with mandatory fees but does not give them sufficient services in return.

The leaders said they have sent a letter requesting a meeting with Congen Tejada on Nov 10 to voice out their opposition to the forced memberships and fees but are still awaiting his reply. They will also present a petition with 30,000 signatures to the head of post.
Filcom leaders sign on the Rage banner to show their unity against the govt exactions
A protest rally against the mandatory memberships is also being planned ahead of the celebration of International Migrants Day on Dec 15.

The meeting was held in reaction to the government’s recent announcement requiring PhilHealth membership for all OFWs at 50% more than current rate starting January next year. The current annual premium of Php2,400 per year will go up to Php3,600 next year, until it reaches Php6,000 by 2022.
“We have always been exhausted with our long working hours, inhuman accommodation and low wages, and now we are being made to pay for more fees, as if we are made of money,” United Filipinos in Hong Kong chairperson Dolores Balladares-Pelaez said.

Pelaez, addressing the meeting, said the workers should not meekly accept all the fee increases that the government in Manila forcibly imposes on migrant workers.
Unifil chair Dolores Balladares-Pelaez recounts all the new fees OFWs are being made to pay
She recalled that last year, the government passed a resolution requiring all OFWs to be insured in the Philippines even if their employers are already required to have them insured in their work destinations.

This was followed by the implementation of mandatory membership of all OFWs in the Social Security System, whether already deployed abroad or about to leave the country.

More recently, she said, membership in Pag-IBIG, the state housing fund scheme, was also made mandatory, meaning no OFW can secure an overseas employment certificate or OEC unless they have paid for all the required fees.

“Sa usaping ito ng mandatory membership, ang paninindigan po natin ay hindi natin pinipigilan ang isang migrante kung nagnanais siyang mag-member ng SSS, ng Pag-IBIG, ng PhilHealth o anumang insurance,” Pelaez said.

But she said forcing OFWs to pay for membership in all these government agencies is a different matter altogether.

She said that aside from opposing mandatory memberships in various government schemes, the coalition is also against the excessive increases in premium fees, such as the more than 50% hike in SSS and PhilHealth memberships.

These fees combined are far more than the meager wage rise that the Hong Kong government has granted to Filipino migrant workers for the past years, and eat into their already meager budget for their family's needs.

Other leaders who spoke against the mandatory memberships and excessive fees were Marites Nuval of Global Alliance and Alann Mas of Abante Cagayanos, who are also spokespersons of Rage.

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