OFWs demand policy change on Owwa membership fees
MANILA, Philippines—Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Hong Kong on Friday urged Manila to make it its official policy to issue to OFWs their overseas employment certificates (OEC) without requiring from them proof that they had paid their Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) membership fees.
In a statement, the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Unifil-Migrante-HK) said the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) should declare as “official” the announcement of Labor Attache Manuel Roldan that the department would take up the move at a community leaders’ forum on Feb. 12.
Roldan had said that, effective Feb. 1, OFWs applying for an OEC would no longer be required to present proof that they had paid their Owwa membership fee, Unifil said.
The group added that Roldan also announced that OFWs who had to go back to the Philippines to wait for the processing of their visas would also be issued OECs in Hong Kong.
“This is clearly a victory of the campaign of OFW groups in HK to remove preconditional fee requirements to get an OEC. We do, however, want it to be more official and urge the Dole or the Polo (Philippine Overseas Labor Office) to issue an order stating such,” said Dolores Balladares, Unifil chair.
OFWs vacationing in the Philippines are required to present their OECs before they are allowed to return to their jobs abroad.
Balladares said the issuance of OECs without any other charges was one of the demands that more than 100 OFW organizations in Hong Kong submitted to President Aquino when he assumed office.
“While we welcome this development, it is highly disappointing that such action was made more than year after we submitted our demands. Notable still is that P-Noy himself is still disturbingly quiet on the demands of OFWs, and only because of the persistent efforts of OFWs did the Polo-HK relent on this issue,” Balladares said.
“At the rate this government is going, are we going to wait for more than a year again for our other concerns to be addressed?” she asked.
OFW groups in Hong Kong had also asked Mr. Aquino to lower the fees for the processing of passports abroad, that is, to make them similar to the fees paid in the Philippines; to stop putting in other preconditional fees (like Pag-Ibig or PhilHealth) for OECs; the immediate issuance of voter’s IDs for overseas absentee voters; the lifting of the ban on direct hiring, and more funds for onsite services for OFWs in need of assistance.
“The list we submitted included those that require simple and direct response from P-Noy if he only has the political will and the sincerity to uphold the rights of OFWs,” Balladares said.
“Sadly, P-Noy is really more concerned only about how many more Filipinos can be exported abroad, how many dollars we can remit and how we can be further squeezed dry of our hard-earned income through useless government fees,” she said.
On March 11, during the commemoration of the International Women’s Day, OFWs under the banners of Unifil and Gabriela-HK will hold a protest action to further press the government to respond to the OFWs’ demands.
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