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HK OFWs protest mandatory fee increases

Migrant workers held a protest action in front of the Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong on Wednesday against additional fees in government health, insurance and housing program fees.

The United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK) led the picket protest against the new and mandatory fee increases it said it said are “undemocratic, unscrupulous, and unnecessary.”

They were joined by members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-HK, Gabriela and Filipino Migrant Workers Union.

In a statement, UNIFIL said the Consulate General prohibited them from entering the Consular office to properly register their opposition to the new impositions but failed to stop them from conducting a rally in front of the building.

UNIFIL chairperson Dolores Balladares Pelaez said the event on Wednesday was the first in a series of protest actions around the world as collection of fee hikes started.

“Imposing fees on a population who can ill afford it is undemocratic. Overseas Filipinos budget their salary to the last cent. Imposing more fees will mean a reduction in their family’s quality of living,” Balladares-Pelaez said.

“For OFWs, this is heart-breaking as we work overseas so that our families can be given a good life,” she added.

READ: OFWs oppose new order on mandatory Pag-IBIG membership

The outgoing Rodrigo Duterte government ordered a monthly Philippine Health Insurance premium increase of Php1,200 as well as an expanded mandatory insurance premium of Php8,000 per contract for OFWs.

A recent joint advisory between the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG) also made securing Pag-IBIG Membership Identification Numbers and paying the monthly contribution of Php2,400  through the POEA’s system mandatory for migrant workers.

Balladares-Pelaez said they suspect that the new increases will again be misspent following the Php15 billion controversy involving PhilHealth as well as dubious purchases made by the Social Security System.

“With no moves to ensure that our hard-earned money will be taken care of, can anyone blame us for refusing to cough up these fees? If you multiply that by millions (of OFWs), just imagine how much that will amount to,” she added.

‘We demand that the mandatory fees be revoked. These should not be pre-requisites for getting an overseas employment certificate (before deployment),” Balladares-Pelaez said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

OFWs oppose new order on mandatory Pag-IBIG membership

Overseas Filipinos opposed the new resolution making membership to the government’s housing fund mandatory, calling the measure “extortion”.

Migrante International (MI) said overseas Filipino workers (OFW) have always been the target of government money-making schemes and the new order by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG) is another.

In a joint resolution this month, the two government agencies said all OFWs must be Pag-IBIG members in order to secure overseas employment certificates (OEC), a prerequisite to applying for jobs abroad.

The government said the new measure is meant to ensure that OFWs will receive uninterrupted benefits from Pag-IBIG, such as loan packages and other programs.

The order is an addition to the earlier requisite for OFWs to secure exit clearance from the POEA as well as POEA and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration memberships, travel insurance, Social Security System and PhilHealth memberships before being allowed to fly abroad.

MI also revealed that the government has imposed additional medical, training and other processing requirements during the COVID pandemic.

MI said the order, issued only a month away from the May 2022 national and local elections, is another desperate device by the Rodrigo Duterte government to milk more funds from the OFWs.

“This is just another mechanism of the Labor Export Program (LEP). The mandatory Pag-IBIG membership only aggravates the current critical condition of Filipinos who are forced to seek overseas employment in order for their families to survive the severe economic crisis brought about by the endless hike in oil price and basic commodities,” MI said.

Jhoanna Concepcion, MI chairperson, said that without an OEC, OFWs are prevented from leaving the country even if they are already in possession of all the necessary working and travel requirements set by their respective host countries.

“Our own government controls our movement. Now, the government is using the OEC to extract money from our hard-working OFWs. Is this the kind of treatment our OFWs deserved?” Concepcion asked.

MI said it plans on mobilizing its chapters in three major global regions and two major countries in North America to protest against this recent mandatory fee and at the same time will revive its call for the abolition of the OEC.

“We also challenge our presidentiables to speak against this new mandatory fee and, if they are elected, we hope they will provide us with relief and not add more burden to our sufferings,” she said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Paano kinikilo ang pag-ibig?

By Pia Montalban

Kinikilo muna

ang pagkakamali,

hanggang sa huling guhit

ng bigat, ginuguhitan

ang hangganan at pagitan

ng lisya at kuwenta.

Ang kilo ng pag-ibig

ay ang tapat ng timbang

ng bawat pagkukulang,

na dinodoble ng sampung ulit,

o higit-higit pa,

hanggang ang bawat kahinaan,

wala nang timbang

sa bumibigat na pagmamahalan.