OFWs welcome Ople’s dialogue offer

Migrante International to press demand scrapping of ‘burdensome’ requirements and fees with incoming migrant workers secretary

Migrant workers welcomed incoming Department of Migrant Workers secretary Susan “Toots” Ople’s pronouncement to look into their demands to scrap recently-added requirements and fees before deployment abroad.

Migrante International (MI) said Ople’s openness to dialogue with Filipino migrants and review the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) requirement and other mandatory fees when she formally assumes office on Friday, July 1, is “much appreciated.”

“Incoming Secretary Ople’s invitation to initiate virtual town hall meetings with Filipino migrants is much appreciated by MIGRANTE International regional members who are looking forward to meet the Secretary and convey to her the issues of land and sea-based members,” MI chairperson Joanna Concepcion said in a statement.

In a Rappler interview on March 30, Ople said she plans to hold virtual town hall meetings as well as conduct a “systems review” to see how the government deals with overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

MI said the outgoing Rodrigo Duterte government has made it harder for OFWs to apply for permits as they are required by the (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to pay Balik-Manggagawa fees, Philhealth, Pag Ibig and OWWA membership contributions in order to secure OEC before deployment abroad.

Newly-hired OFWs also need to settle “onerous” charges from recruitment agencies and other private and government offices, the group added.

Concepcion said Ople’s planned town hall meetings would be an opportunity for them to reiterate demands for the scrapping of the new requirements and fees. 

MI said they will also ask the incoming secretary to set up more temporary shelters abroad for migrant workers in distress, legal and counseling assistance to those in jail, and right to security of tenure for seafarers.

The group also said they will ask Ople to help bring Mary Jane Veloso, in jail in Indonesia since 2010 for alleged illegal drug trafficking, home.

“We hope that Secretary Ople can also help in the immediate return of Mary Jane including other Filipinos who are still languishing in jail abroad, Concepcion said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)