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Bill seeking mandatory insurance for all OFWs comes under fire

20 November 2019

Former Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre received a petition
against mandatory insurance during a rally in January

By Daisy CL Mandap

A renewed push in the Philippines for mandatory insurance coverage for all Filipino contract workers abroad has come under fire from migrant groups in Hong Kong who denounced it as another extortionist move by the government.

A consolidated bill tabled at the House of Representatives yesterday, Nov. 19, creating the Department of Filipinos Overseas, provides for expanding the coverage of mandatory insurance, essentially a life insurance, under RA 10022.

Section 46 of the draft legislation provides that compulsory insurance “shall be expanded to cover all overseas Filipino workers, including agency-hires, rehires, name hires or direct hires.”
The provision, which is supposed to promote better protection for all OFWs, also states that the premium payment, which currently amounts to USD144 (HK$1,120) per two-year contract for land-based workers, should be made by the foreign employers.

No contracts will be verified by the labor attaché on site (or a concerned consular official in his absence) without the paid insurance coverage, and proof of payment will be made as a requirement for the issuance of the overseas employment certificate (OEC).

Under RA 10022, only agency-hired OFWs leaving the country for the first time are required to pay for the life insurance.

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Migrant groups in Hong Kong, including those under the newly formed coalition Rise Against Government Exactions (Rage) say the measure will be another burden to OFWs who already face other mandatory fees, including for SSS and Philhealth memberships.

Rage spokesperson Dolores Balladares-Pelaez said that Filipino migrant workers will surely end up paying for the insurance premium because employers already pay for high recruitment fees to hire them.

Apart from this, Hong Kong employers are already required by their government to take out insurance on their foreign domestic helpers so it is not likely they will agree to pay for a second coverage.
“For sure ang mga kababayan natin ang magbabayad niyan dahil hindi ito babayaran ng employers. Worse, baka ma-terminate pa ang ating worker kapag giniit niya na ang employer ang kailangang magbayad nito.”

The sentiment is shared by many members of the online group, Domestic Workers Corner, who said the proposed fee is “sobra na,” citing the mandatory SSS contribution already in place, and the compulsory Philhealth membership due to take effect early next year.

“Patay tayo dyan,” said Elle Zue. Pag pina shoulder yan sa amo malamang wala ng i-hire na Pilipino. Nagkakagulo pa naman dito ngayon.”

Another, Lyn Fajardo, said, “Hindi po ako agree dyan dahil hindi lahat ng amo sapat ang finances para mabayaran pa ang mandatory insurance na yan....meron na kaming insurance dito, sapat na yon...”

Rain Ranin said: “Wala na...parang wag na lang mag abroad, wala nang halaga ang perang pinaghirapan mo sa abroad.”

Another commenter, Leh Capuno said: “Big no. Gipit na nga wala pang mandatory lalo pa kaya kung meron na ganyan. Mas lalo nila nilulubog sa mga bayarin ang mga OFW. Ano pa ang ipapadala sa pamilya sa Pinas kung ganito kalaki ang babayaran naming mga OFW?”

The same sentiment was shared by Liezl Balajadia who said, “Big no. Hindi na nga makaipon dadagdag pa ng bayarin. Malayo na nga kami sa pamilya namin ni scam nyo pa kami.”

Quipped another who goes by the nameYa Kc Ej: “Sunduin nyo kaya ang nakaisip nito at sya ang magkuskos ng inidoro dito. Jusko lahat na lang e..buti kung nagka emergency makukuha mo agad (pero) kailangan pang ikutin ang Pilipinas sa requirements bago ma-release.”

But a few didn’t think the mandatory insurance was such a bad idea. “Yes, dahil mga amo naman ang magbabayad e, hindi naman tayo,” said Flordeliza Bibat.

“Opo, dapat sa employer kunin ang bayad hindi sa OFW,” said another who goes by the name Ako Si Hans.

Expanded mandatory insurance was stealthily put into place by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration through a Resolution issued in August last year requiring employers or recruitment agents to pay for the insurance coverage of both new and rehired OFWs.

Unifil quickly responded with a statement opposing the move, and held a rally in January this year to call for the junking of the resolution. More than 170 organizations reportedly backed the call.

Nothing more was heard about the POEA Resolution until now, when it emerged that mandatory insurance has become part of a new legislation creating the super body that will oversee the concerns of all Filipinos overseas.
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