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.
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)