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Citing better pandemic situation, POEA suspends mandatory insurance vs COVID-19

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
Citing better pandemic situation, POEA suspends mandatory insurance vs COVID-19
An overseas Filipino worker has her temperature taken prior to checking in at the counters of the NAIA-1 departure area yesterday(May 29, 2021).
Krizjohn Rosales, file

MANILA, Philippines — Rehired and directly hired overseas Filipino workers (OFW) will no longer need to pay the expanded compulsory insurance intended to provide a fallback for those who contract COVID-19. 

The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) has instructed the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to temporarily suspend its implementation, citing the "improving global health situation" and higher vaccination rates in the Philippines. 

The department and the POEA said they plan to conduct consultations with groups to ensure that they better address the needs of migrant workers.

"The suspension will save our ‘balik-manggagawa’ workers and those directly hired by foreign employers at least $35 (P1,700) worth of mandatory insurance coverage, while reducing the number of requirements imposed by governments," Migrant Workers Secretary Susan "Toots" Ople said in a statement on Monday.

Last year, the Department of Labor and Employment issued Department Order (DO) No. 228 that was meant to be a "protective insurance mechanism against OFWs contracting COVID-19." It applied to all agency-hired workers and migrant workers who are considered rehires.

Migrante International, a coalition of migrant workers’ groups, earlier said that the order is "misleading and untrue."

Under the DO, the expenses should be paid by their foreign employers. 

However, the department order also states that OFWs may shoulder the cost and a full refund will await them once they reach their worksite or country of destination.

"This is another scheme by the government to bleed dry migrant workers of their remaining resources even at this present stage of economic crisis worsened by continuing price increases on crude oil and other basic commodities," Migrante International said in a statement in May.

On Monday, Ople promised that the department will look into how the expanded insurance scheme is beneficial to workers.

"The order to suspend will be followed by a series of formal consultations with all stakeholders most especially our OFWs in different parts of the world via online meetings since they were meant to be the primary beneficiaries of DO No. 228," Ople said. 

However, this should not be confused with the compulsory insurance for newly hired OFWs that would remain in place since it is provided under law. 

"‘Yung itinatakda ng batas ay ating patuloy na ipatutupad dahil ito naman ay sagot ng mga foreign employers," Ople said. 

(The one mandated under law will continue to be implemented since that is shouldered by foreign employers.)

DEPARTMENT OF MIGRANT WORKERS

SUSAN OPLE

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