OFWs in HK press DMW’s Ople for response to demands

Migrant workers in Hong Kong (HK) are demanding a response to a list of complaints they submitted in a dialogue with Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) and Philippine Consulate officials last April.

More than a month after their FilCom(Filipino Community) Leaders Meeting in the Chinese territory, Migrante-HK said they have yet to hear migrant workers secretary Susan Ople’s official response to their complaints, prompting them to write another letter to the DMW.

The migrant workers pressed their demand for the scrapping of the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) they need to secure to be allowed to exit the Philippines.

They also wanted a stop to the mandatory payment of PhilHealth, Social Security System (SSS) and Philippine Home Mortgage Corporation (Pag-Ibig) contributions.

The OFWs said these payments, increased during the Rodrigo Duterte administration, must only be voluntary

They also demanded the continuation of Covid assistance payments to OFWs sick of the virus, as well as prompt assistance by consulate and Philippine Overseas Labor Office personnel to Filipinos in distress abroad.

Migrante-HK said Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) deputy administrator Honey Quino has already committed to continuing assistance to OFWs sick with Covid as well as to Filipinos in distress.

DMW undersecretary Patricia Yvonne Caunan announced the review of the OEC, the group added.

But the OFWs said they need to hear from Ople herself, especially the assurance of receiving help from the OWWA for both members and non-members.

“It is not enough that additional payments (to PhilHealth, SSS and Pag-Ibig) are suspended. We want the total scrapping of the OEC,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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 press for scrapping of mandatory PhilHealth membership

A group of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and overseas Filipinos pressed their demand for the scrapping of the mandatory Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) membership amid difficulties brought them by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, Migrante International said OFWs have been facing job losses amidst the pandemic that is aggravated by “onerous government fees” such as the proposed PhilHealth premium rate increase this year.

The group said mandatory PhilHealth membership has been a burden for OFWs since the passage of the Universal Healthcare Act (UHC) signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on February 20, 2019.

The law requires OFWs to be PhilHealth members before leaving for work abroad.

Migrante earlier said majority of the OFWs have no use for mandatory membership as PhilHealth is practically useless in helping them pay medical bills when they get sick abroad.

Instead, Migrante said PhilHealth membership should be “voluntary for those with capacity to pay contributions.”  

Migrante also scored the corruption at the health insurance agency that has yet to properly account for at least Php 15 billion in allegedly misspent funds.

“PhilHealth has been used as a tool for unscrupulous health officials appointed by the President to amass billions of members’ contributions for their own selfish interests,” the group said.

“Why should contributors suffer by paying increased premiums in response to the agency’s lack of funds?” the group also asked.

Migrante demands “corrupt” PhilHealth officials involved be held accountable and prosecuted. 

Migrante also said OFWs believe that Duterte’s recent announcement to defer the collection of increased PhilHealth premiums is only a tactic to quell the anger and anxiety of the people especially during this COVID crisis.

“Merely deferring the increased premium does nothing to calm down the people,” Migrante said in its statement.

Instead, the group said OFWs want a genuine, pro-people, universal health care program through free and comprehensive medical and health services. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Kung said na ang luha mo Bagong Bayani

Ni Ibarra Banaag

(Inspirasyon mula sa tula ni Ka Amado V. Hernandez)

Lumuha ka bagong bayani, buong lungkot mong iluha
Ang kawawang kalagayan ng lupain mong iniwanan:
Kung bandilang kinagisnan, saklot ng dayong bandila,
Pati wikang minana mo’y sa Mandarin itinatwa.
Ganito ring araw ngayon ng magsangla ka ng lupa,
Tulad ni Flor Comtemplacion ng lisanin ang Maynila.
Lumuha ka habang sila ay bagabag ng `yong layon, 
Ang paslit sa bisig mo’y iniwan mong tumataghoy: 
Katulad mo ay si Huli, naaliping bayad utang, 
Katulad mo‘y si Sisa, binaliw sa bayan ng dayuhan; 
Walang lakas na magtangol, walang tapang na lumaban, 
Pumapalahaw nang gahasain; tumatangis sa tampalasan!
Iluha mo ang sambuntong kasawiang nagtalakop 
Na sa iyo’y pampahirap, sa Gobyerno’y pampalusog: 
Ang lahat ng kayamana’y kamal-kamal na naubos, 
Ang lahat mong kalayaa’y sa Terror Bill ay natapos; 
Masdan mo ang iyong luha, sa Philhealth ay pantubos, 
Masdan mo ang yong sahod, sa sobrang buwis itinustos.
Lumuha ka kung sa puso ay nagmaliw na ang ipon,
Kung ang pundar na bukid, ginawa ng subdibisyon,
Kung ang dagat sa bayan mo, Tsino’t Kano nakadaong,
Kung bundok at ang parang, pinatag ng mandarambong,
Kung ang katawan mo’y inuwi para lamang paglamayan,
Lumuha ka ng lumuha, pangarap mo’y nakaburol.
May araw ding ang luha mo’y masasaid, matutuyo.
May araw ding di na luha sa mata mong namumugto
Ang dadaloy, kundi apoy at adhikain na pupugto,
Rumaragasang galit at kamaong nag-aalimpuyo,
Sisigaw ka ng buong giting tanikala ay malagot,
At ang pangangayupapa, dudurugin sa pagbangon.

Hunyo 8, 2020

Itanong Mo Kay Prof: ABS-CBN Franchise at PhilHealth Issues

Panayam ng Kodao Productions kay Prof. Jose Maria Sison sa pamamagitan ni Prof. Sarah Raymundo ng BAYAN National hinggil sa isyu ng ABS-CBN franchise at pagpapanukala ng PhilHealth Circular No. 2020-0014 o ang 3% mandatory contribution sa mga OFWs.

WATCH: UAE-based Filipinos discuss effect of mandatory PhilHealth payment suspension

Online campaign to nix mandatory PhilHealth payment gained 200,000 signatures in UAE

By Angel L. Tesorero

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: After expressing a strong online protest, Filipinos in the UAE can now heave a sigh of relief after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has temporarily suspended the mandatory payment of premiums to PhilHealth (Philippine Health Insurance Corporation), presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced on Monday.

During a virtual press conference from Malacañang Palace in Manila, Roque said President Duterte issued a directive to PhilHealth to make payment voluntary given the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which has displaced many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) worldwide.

Roque added OFWs leaving the country are not required to pay PhilHealth premiums for the issuance of their Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) before they can resume working abroad.
OFWs on their PhilHealth contributionIrish Belleza, Videographer, Angel Tesorero, Reporter

PhilHealth is a government-owned corporation attached to the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) that is mandated to implement the National Health Insurance Program to all Filipinos. It recently issued a circular increasing the premium payments equivalent to around 3% of an OFW’s monthly salary starting this year.

PhilHealth said this was declared in the Universal Health Care Law, which President Duterte signed into law in February last year.

When asked if the increase in payment to PhilHealth will be suspended permanently, Roque said insurance payments are based on actuarial science (based on calculating insurance risks and premiums).

Online furor

Filipinos in the UAE used social media over the weekend to join their kababayans (compatriots) worldwide in expressing strong opposition to the latest circular. They said it was not only a huge burden for them but the move was also insensitive to their plight in the time of COVID-19 pandemic.

One online petition on garnered close to 200,000 signatures, according to Gabriel John Rimando, founder and president of Dubai-based Filipino Institute, who launched the online campaign.

Arnel Fernandez

“OFWs help the Philippine economy afloat by sending billions of pesos as remittances. We sent a record high of $33.5 billion last year and they now they have given as an additional burden – this PhilHealth premium hike – while we’re struggling with the impact of the global health crisis,” Dubai resident Arnel Fernandez told Gulf News.

Sherill D Marcus

“This is very unfair to us. We are not using PhilHealth because we already have a UAE insurance. So why are we paying 3 per cent mandatory when we are not benefitting from it. We are so scared that we cannot go back on vacation if we don’t pay PhilHealth insurance. This is highly unjust and is so troubling,” added Sherill D Marcus, 40, a nanny in Dubai for 6 years.

Andre Rivera

“The implementation of such law does not make sense especially with the current circumstances faced by OFWs around the world. The fact that it ignores OFWs who are currently unemployed and still required them to pay the premium is an outrage,” reiterated Andre Rivera, who works as a communications manager for multinational PR company in Dubai.

A spokesperson for Gabriela-UAE, a group of Filipino expats in the UAE advocating for workers and women’s rights, added: “It is very unfortunate that they call OFWs modern heroes and yet they penalise us with such directives. We urge PhilHealth to reverse this directive as this is unfair and an abuse to our migrant workers.”

‘Stand up for our rights’

Barney Almazar, director at the corporate-commercial department of Gulf Law, said: “OFWs globally were up in arms against PhilHealth’s policy to deduct 3 per cent (and later on 5 per cent) from their monthly salaries. Moreover, according to the circular, OFWs will not be allowed to leave until all contribution and compounded interest are paid.”

Barney Almazar

“This was a clear violation of our constitutional right to travel. Taxes, which is the lifeblood of the nation, if not paid is not a ground to prevent a person from leaving the Philippines,” Almazar told Gulf News.

“We all want a dependable healthcare. We understand that the membership to such program is crucial. The implementation however, must not be oppressive. We are being held hostage by the very institution that should protect us,” he underlined.

Almazar continued: “With all the hardships OFWs are facing, threatening us of deprivation of our only source of livelihood is unjust. It is contrary to humanity especially during this covid crisis. Social justice dictates that this policy be amended.”

“I encourage my fellow OFWs to stand for their rights. Our voice must be heard loud and clear. We are contributing a lot to the Philippines and we cannot simply be ignored, much more our rights trampled. We don’t demand for any special treatments or recognition as modern day heroes. We only want to get the respect we rightfully deserve,” he underlined. #

= = = = =

This report was first published by Gulf News.