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Quake victims complain of difficulties in receiving assistance

DMW: OWWA teams will make distribution ‘a bit faster’

Victims of the earthquake in northern Luzon last July 27 face difficulties in receiving the P3,000 (US$54) financial assistance from the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), a group of overseas Filipinos revealed.

Members of the Abra Tingguian Ilokano Society-Hong Kong said many of their families are not included in the list of beneficiaries released by OWWA (Overseas Workers and Welfare Administration) for the financial package.

DMW secretary Susan Ople earlier announced that the new agency has allocated a financial package of P20 million for families of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) hit by the intensity 7.0 earthquake last week.

The OFW group reported however that not all of their families are eligible for the assistance based on the criteria released by the OWWA.

“The OWWA clarified that only its active members are eligible for the P3,000 assistance. But what about those who are active but have been left out of their list?” the Society asked in Filipino.

“And how about OFWs who have become inactive members but whose family are also victims of the earthquake,” the group added.

The group also complained about the “most terrible” list of requirements in order for their families to claim the amount, including the following:

1. Authorization Letter from the OFW

2. Photocopy of pages 2 and 3 of the OFW’s passport (with signature)

3. 1 2×2 inch ID picture of claimant

4. Proof of relationship with the OFW

* Birth certificate of the OFW and claimant (if claimant is a sibling)

* Birth Certificate of the OFW (if claimant is a parent or child)

* Marriage Certificate (if claimant is a spouse)

5. Photocopy of Government Valid ID of Claimant

The Society said their families have started claiming the package on Wednesday in different municipal halls around Abra Province but were frustrated by the requirements.

“We learned that our families need to have the requirements printed at the cost of P10 to 15 per page. Also, is it really necessary for them to submit ID photos?” the group asked.

Many beneficiaries have to apply for birth and marriage certificates from the Philippine Statistics Authority as well as barangay and police clearances in order to present valid government identification documents, it added.

“It seems they would be spending more than the amount they are supposed to receive in order for them to claim the assistance benefit,” the group said.

Society president Ludy Guinaban said their families have yet to return to their homes and badly need the assistance.

“They should not be making it difficult for our families to receive help, given the terrible crisis they face. They need immediate help, not a list of requirements that they also need to pay for,” Guinaban said.

OWWA teams to adjust

Asked for comment, a DMW official said it will assist as much it could in order for the beneficiaries to receive the amount “a bit faster.”

“We understand their apprehensions. They have families in distress and they are near powerless to physically help,” DMW spokesperson Toby Nebrida told Kodao.

Nebrida said that the difficulties faced by the beneficiaries may be explained by the fact that it was the distribution’s first day on Wednesday.

A total of 449 initial beneficiaries were given the assistance package yesterday, he said.

“The OWWA regional and provincial teams will adjust to make the distribution a bit faster given the challenges in the earthquake affected areas,” Nebrida said.

Nebrida added that if there is difficulty with presenting or bringing the needed documents, the OWWA teams may consider photographs of passports as well as birth and marriage certificates sent through social networking services such as Viber.

The OWWA teams may also take photographs of claimants who could not present ID photos, Nebrida said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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)