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No to mandatory insurance for our migrants!

Yesterday, Wednesday, the bicameral conference committee was scheduled to meet on the proposal and other amendments to the Migrant Workers Act or Republic Act 8042.

The proposal for the compulsory insurance has been rejected by the migrant workers who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of this revision. Civil society groups that continue to support the migrant workers have also objected to the passage of this mandatory insurance for migrants.

According to Ellene Sana of the Center for Migrants Advocacy, the “ compulsory insurance has no place in RA8042 and they should scrap it in the amendatory bill on RA8042. The mandatory insurance, as proposed, runs counter to the principles and intent of RA 8042 to set higher standards of protection for migrant workers and overseas Filipinos.”

According to those who oppose this proposal, the insurance will benefit the recruiters, rather the migrant workers. It will also shield the government and the recruiters from their responsibility to protect our OFWs.

As Ellene further explained in an earlier report, “the proposed mandatory insurance is really meant to insure the recruiters against their obligations to OFWs who find themselves in trouble abroad, which is unfair to the workers.”

For example, instead of getting full payment for the unexpired portion of the employment contract, the fired OFW may get much less from the recruiter or employer, depending on the provisions of the insurance contract.

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Recruiters and employers have their obligation to protect and insure their recruited migrant workers. Given the huge amount that recruiters charge our migrant workers and given the huge profits that employers get from the cheaper labor rendered by our OFWs, the recruiters and employers should, instead, be mandated to bear the burden of helping to protect and insure the OFWS, not the other way around.

Ellene also question why the bicameral committee should even consider this proposal mandatory insurance when, she said, “even the Office of the Solicitor General, whose legal opinion the POEA sought, rejected the idea of mandatory insurance for OFWs. “Even the executive branch turned it down, so why try and legislate it?”

She said there are also other parts of the proposed amendments that already provide for protection to the OFWs, for example, the employment contract specifies a repatriation mechanism, including a plane ticket home, as well as access to grievance mechanisms. For those who are interested to know more about this issue, you can refer to www.pinoy-abroad.net.

In reaction to this opposition from the migrant workers and civil society migrant advocates, a news report dated November 17 mentioned that the recruiters said they were withdrawing their proposal for mandatory insurance and will instead offer insurance coverage for departing OFWs, on a voluntary basis. While acknowledging that they could not understand why migrant workers and the civil society groups were opposing their proposal for mandatory insurance, the recruiters said they will “ move to delete anything and everything related to insurance.”

Now that the recruiters themselves have withdrawn their support for this provision on mandatory insurance for our workers, we hope today’s news will carry the good news that Congress, as well, has scrapped this compulsory insurance for OFWs.

As Ellene correctly reminds everyone, the protection and insurance of the OFWs should be the responsibility and priority of the government and the recruiters.

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Email: cherryb_thefreeman@yahoo.com

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