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Mandatory Pag-IBIG payments an additional burden for OFWs — groups

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
Mandatory Pag-IBIG payments an additional burden for OFWs — groups
This file photo shows Hong Kong International Airport
Philstar.com, file

MANILA, Philippines — Making monthly Pag-IBIG Fund contributions mandatory for overseas Filipino workers is an unfair requirement that takes even more money that could be remitted to families back home, migrant workers' groups opposed to the new policy said.

In separate strongly-worded statements on Tuesday, Migrante International and Bayan Muna party-list chapters in Hong Kong criticized the new requirement. 

"OFWs have always been the piggy bank of various government agencies through mandatory collections through POEA and OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) membership, travel insurance, SSS (Social Security System), and PhilHealth, not to mention, medical, training and other processing requirements during the COVID pandemic," Migrante International said.

The group added that the new requirement is another “mechanism of the Labor Export Program” as it aggravates the state of Filipinos who go abroad to seek better opportunities. 

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna - Hong Kong said it is an "additional burden" to migrant Filipino workers. They said new requirement takes away money which could have been given to their own families instead.

Both groups questioned the timing of the resolution.

Pag-IBIG MID mandatory

A joint advisory between the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Pag-IBIG Fund made securing Pag-IBIG Membership Identification Numbers and paying the monthly contributions through the POEA’s system mandatory for migrant Filipino workers.

"The agreement was aimed at strengthening the implementation of the mandatory Pag-IBIG Fund coverage of [OFWs] under Republic Act No. 9679 and to provide them with a convenient and inexpensive means to pay their monthly Pag-IBIG member-contributions," the advisory read

POEA and Pag-IBIG Fund said this measure will also ensure that benefits and loan processing would be easier for OFWs. 

This also means that those applying for jobs abroad will be required to get a Pag-IBIG MID number before they can register for an Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) processing.

However, Bayan Muna - Hong Kong said the fee is "another form of state exaction," while Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion called it "open extortion."

"Without an OEC, our OFWs are banned from leaving the country even if they are in possession of all the necessary working and travel requirements set by the host country," Concepcion said.

"Our own government controls our movement, now the government is using the OEC to extract money from our hard-working OFWs," she added.

Migrante International plans to mobilize its chapters in three global regions as well as in two countries in North America to protest the mandatory fee and once again call for the removal of the OEC as a requirement.

The group is also calling on presidential candidates to oppose the new requirement.

Social protection in host countries needed

However, Center for Migrant Advocacy - Philippines said that while the country has social protection programs for OFWs, not all workers reap the benefits of these and they also do not have the needed social security in the countries they are based in.

It called on the government to engage in labor agreement negotiations to ensure that OFWs are given an adequate social protection program.

READ: Government urged to include OFWs in social protection package

Meanwhile, the newly established Department of Migrant Workers also aims to make government services more accessible to OFWs and streamline government agencies that serve them. The DMW has yet to be fully functional as it is on its transition period. — with a report from Louise Maureen Simeon

OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS

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