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CG promises quick action on OFW concerns

18 November 2019

By Daisy CL Mandap

Image may contain: 4 people, including Dolores Balladares Pelaez, people sitting
Congen Tejada, flanked by Consuls Saret and Quintin, listens to Pelaez's briefing on issues
Consul General Raly Tejada has promised to relay to Manila within this week some of the immediate concerns raised by Filipino migrant leaders in Hong Kong during the first consultation meeting he had with them yesterday, Nov 17, at the Consulate.

These include the long-standing issue about scrapping the overseas employment certificate and the non-implementation of mandatory insurance and contribution to PhilHealth, which are set to take effect as early as January next year.

“The Consulate will continue to listen and will make sure Manila understands the gravity of your concerns,” Congen Tejada said. “I feel your pain, I feel your concerns. That’s why I promise that (hopefully I will be here for three years) during my time, we can do something about it.”
He reiterated a promise to meet regularly with members of the community to discuss their concerns and hopefully come up with solutions.

“This is just the first meeting. This will be a continuing dialogue because this is a community that speaks and listens to each other,” he said.

The meeting was requested by a new coalition of migrant leaders, Rise Against Government Exactions (Rage), in a bid to enlist the Consulate’s  help in stopping the forced collection of new fees from overseas Filipino workers.

Image may contain: 9 people, including Eman Villanueva, Alann Cayosa-Mas and Dolores Balladares Pelaez, people smiling, people standing
Congen Tejada with key officers of Rage
These include mandatory SSS membership (which is already being implemented), Philhealth contribution and compulsory insurance for all OFWs, including rehires, which are expected to take effect early next year.

Alann Cayosa Mas, chair of Federation of Luzon Active Groups (Flag) and spokesperson of Rage, clarified that the coalition of 18 migrant alliances is not against OFW membership in any of the government agencies, but “huwag lang gawing mandatory.”
Dolores Balladares Pelaez, chair of United Filipinos (Migrante) in Hong Kong, said the government promised three years ago to scrap the OEC, but never delivered on that promise.

She also said that not only was mandatory SSS membership implemented without prior consultation with OFW groups in April this year, the annual premium was also jacked up to Php2,400.

“Ang  hiling naming ay huwag gawing mandatory at huwag itaas ang premium,” she said.
Pelaez also disclosed that Migrante International has sought a temporary restraining order against the mandatory SSS contribution, but the case is still pending in court.

As for the forced contribution to Philhealth, she said the plan is to make all OFWs departing from the Philippines to pay three months’ premium of Php7,200 upfront. This is on top of the recruitment fee, training fee, and all other charges imposed on them.

“Bakit kapag may mandatory na singilin, ang OFW ang agad na natatamaan,” she asked. “Milking cow ba tayo?”

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She also complained that no prior consultations were made with OFWs before any of the new fees were imposed, when “madali naman kaming ipatawag.”

Congen Tejada said he fully understood their concern about the lack of consultation, and will bring this up along with the other issues raised.

“Naiintindihan ko ang concern ninyo. The fact that you are here, isang coalition, it must be a big issue.”
Image may contain: 26 people, including VC Robert Quintin, Dolores Balladares Pelaez, Alann Cayosa-Mas, Lisa Soria Mantilla and Virgie Borbon Buen, people smiling
Consulate officials with the Rage leaders

Eman Villanueva, chair of Bayan Hong Kong and Macau, suggested turning the regular Filcom consultation also as a venue for discussing long-standing issues affecting migrants in the city, like the fight for equitable wages and working hours.

Congen Tejada said he hopes to take up those issues during his first meeting with Chief Executive Carrie Lam scheduled for the first week of December.

Joining Congen Tejada at the meeting were Consul Paul Saret, head of assistance to nationals section, and Consul Bob Quintin, head of community relations.
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