A group of OFWs in Hong Kong has denounced the mandatory insurance the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has imposed on migrant workers.
During a protest action held at the Philippine Consulate General recently, a group lead by UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK denounced what they consider as new imposition that would squeeze OFWs dry of their hard-earned money, amid rising inflation and a host of fees being exacted by the government.
Under the POEA Governing Board Resolution No. 4, all returning OFWs with the same employer, or have moved to another, must register with POEA, they must provide a passport valid for at least six months, a valid working visa, and a certificate of insurance coverage similar to that required of those leaving for their first job abroad.
“The new POEA order on mandatory insurance is just another money-making scheme for the already burdened OFWs that can very well even cost us our job,” said Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairperson of United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK), regarding the POEA resolution enforcing a mandatory insurance for OFWs, on top of the insurance from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.
Pelaez pointed out that they are not against the insurance as it can benefit the OFWs. But it should not be made mandatory and even a requirement. —LBG, GMA enws
Distressed overseas Filipino workers who have not been paid their salaries for five months in Saudi Arabia may be reunited with their families before Christmas.
In an interview with GMA News, Ryan Javillon —one of the 100 troubled OFWs who went to Al Khobar to seek assistance from Philippine Overseas Labor Office —said Department of Labor Secretary Silverstre Bello III promised them they will be flown back home, possibly before Christmas Day.
"Sabi po ni Secretary Bello, tungkol po sa amin hanggang December ay pauwiin daw po niya kami, yun naman po ang pinanghahawakan namin," Javillon said, adding that they have already signed special power of attorney (SPA) for their unpaid salary claims.
In photo are OWWA Adminsitrator Hans Leo Cacdac, Labor Attache Nasser Munder, and OWWA Welfare Officer James Mendiola during a dialogue with distressed OFWs in Azmeel Contracting Company in Jeddah. --R. Concha
A total of 1,470 OFWs affected by the lock-out by their employer Azmeel Contracting Corporation. They have not been paid their salaries for five months.
Secretary Bello last Monday flew Al Khobar, accompanied by Overseas Workers Welfare Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac and officials of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and Department of Health (DOH), on a mission to assist the troubled OFWs.
The Philippine officials vowed to assist the workers during their meeting in Al Khobar.
Javillon said that aside from the promise of repatriation they were given 400 SAR (P5,756) in initial financial aid that is part of the P20,000 assistance pledge from the government.
OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac confirmed to GMA News Bello's promise about the repatriation.
"Nakausap ni Secretary Bello ang Ministry of Labor at tiniyak nyang binanggit na ang mga workers natin ay mahalaga na ang Kapaskuhan ay ka piling ang kanilang mga pamilya kaya hanggat maaari ay makauwi na before Christmas," Cacdac said. —LBG, GMA News
One of the OFWs who have not been receiving their salaries from a troubled company in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia has lost his child.
According to a report on "QRT", Kamaloden Kazzan's nine-year-old child died in July. It's been six months since Kazzan last received his pay.
Kazzan said he was not able to send money back home for the medical needs of his child because the company stopped paying employees' salaries.
Other OFWs have been borrowing money from relatives so their family could survive.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and officials of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Department of Foreign Affairs are in Saudi Arabia to help the distressed OFWs.
In his last interview, Bello said he would talk with officials of the Arab country's Ministry of Labor to ensure that the back salaries would be paid and that the OFWs who want to come home would be safely repatriated.
He added that those who do not want to be repatriated would be transferred to other companies.
A total of 150 OFWs last Tuesday trooped to the Philippine labor office in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia to ask assistance in claiming their unpaid salaries.
Saying they have not been paid their wages for three up to six months, 150 Filipino workers from Azmeel Contracting Company decided to raise their complaints to the Philippine Overseas labor Office (POLO) in hopes they could get the money due them.
They come from various camps of the company in Saudi Arabia's eastern region, complaining they have not been paid their salaries, equivalent to three and up to six working months.
The workers said their residence permits or iqama are already expired, and that they have not been able to renew the document.
One of the workers, Jerald Caronan, told GMA News that he works as a painter at Azmeel camp based in Jubai in the Eastern Province, and they have not been paid their salaries for five months.
He said they have filed a labor complaint but the case is not moving in court, thus the have decided to ask help from the POLO-Al Khobar.
"Gusto na po namin lahat umuwi ng Pilipinas at makuha mga sahod namin sir, nagugutom na kami pati ang pamilya namin," Caronan said.
The Philippine Embassy and the POLO have called for a meeting in the Azmeel management to address the workers' woes.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac, and other Philippine officials from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Department of Foreign affairs flew to Saudi Arabia last Tuesday to attend to the needs of the distressed Filipino workers.
In a press statement, Bello said government agencies are set to assist the 1,470 distressed OFWs at Azmeel for their eventual repatriation. —LBG, GMA news
The Philippines has dropped from 72nd to 75th spot in a global passport index, although the number of countries and territories it has visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to remains at 66.
According to the latest Henley Passport Index by residence and citizenship planning firm Henley & Partners, Japan has the most powerful passport, allowing it visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to a whopping 190 destinations.
Japan is followed by Singapore (189 destination); Germany, France, South Korea (188); Denmark, Finland, Italy, Sweden, Spain (187); and Norway, United Kingdom, Austria, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, United States (186).
Meanwhile, the 66 destinations that offer visa-free or visa-on-arrival to Filipinos are the following:
1. Armenia 2. Benin 3. Bolivia 4. Brazil 5. Brunei 6. Cambodia 7. Cape Verde Islands 8. Colombia 9. Comores Islands 10. Cook Islands 11. Costa Rica 12. Cote d'lvoire (Ivory Coast) 13. Djibouti 14. Dominica 15. Ecuador 16. Fiji 17. Gambia 18. Guinea-Bissau 19. Haiti 20. Hong Kong (SAR China) 21. Indonesia 22. Iran 23. Israel 24. Kenya 25. Kyrgyztan 26. Laos 27. Macao (SAR China) 28. Madagascar 29. Malawi 30. Malaysia 31. Maldives 32. Marshall Islands 33. Mauritania 34. Mauritius 35. Micronesia 36. Mongolia 37. Morocco 38. Mozambique 39. Myanmar 40. Nepal 41. Nicaragua 42. Niue 43. Palau Islands 44. Palestinian Territory 45. Papua New Guinea 46. Peru 47. Rwanda 48. Samoa 49. Seychelles 50. Singapore 51. Somalia 52. Sri Lanka 53. St. Lucia 54. St. Vincent and the Grenadines 55. Suriname 56. Taiwan 57. Tajikistan 58. Tanzania 59. Thailand 60. Timor-Leste 61. Togo 62. Trinidad and Tobago 63. Tuvalu 64. Uganda 65. Vanuatu 66. Vietnam
The Henley Passport Index is a ranking of all the passports of the world according to the number of countries their holders can travel to visa-free.
The ranking is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association, which maintains the world’s largest and most comprehensive database of travel information, and is enhanced by extensive in-house research. —KBK, GMA News
Despite a soaring inflation rate that peaked last month at 6.7 percent, and the reported drop in personal remittances by 1.4% last August, some overseas Filipino workers would prefer to send cash to their families rather than assorted items through balikbayan box.
OFWs GMA News Online had interviewed through social media said they will continue to send money especially during the Christmas season, as has been their practice.
“Magpapadala ako lalo na’t may asawa’t anak ako. Minsan tumutulong din ako sa mga magulang ko. Nagpapadala din ako sa probinsya para sa mga kapatid ko,” according to John Mark Rosario, 28, barista at the Emirates Leisure Retail in the United Arab Emirates.
“Hindi bababa sa P10,000 ang ipinapadala ko,” he said, adding that, “Hindi kasi ako pabor sa balikbayan box. Mas mabuti na ang pera ang ipinapadala para ma-budget ng maayos."
On the other hand, Jesus Caoile Mejia, 43, family driver in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia said he would send money to his mother every month.
"Hindi pare-parehas [ang ipinapadala kong halaga sa aking nanay] kasi minsan, malaki ang babayaran,” he also told GMA News Online through Messenger.
He does not also favor sending items through balikbayan box. “Yung box kasi, 45 days bago makarating sa paroroonan. Nagpapadala din ako nun kaso kailangan din ng pera pambayad sa kuryente, internet, at tubig at iba pa.”
Good thing, his employer would give him “gifts” from time to time.
“Hirap din minsan [magpadala ng pera]. Nakakabawi lang pag may binibigay ang amo na gift.”
Jovielyn Taylan, 33, had it easy. She only sends money if her family asks for it.
“Fund transfer lang ako sa siblings at parents ko pero very seldom lang. For my siblings, additional allowance. For my parents, simple gift lang and if requested.”
The 1,470 overseas Filipino workers affected by a company lockout in Saudi Arabia will each receive P20,000 in financial assistance, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said—a clarification from previous reports that said they would receive $50,000.
"Ang maibibigay lang ng OWWA [Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration] ay P20,000 cash assistance," Bello said in an interview with Emil Sumangil on GMA News TV's QRT on Tuesday.
He added that DOLE is coordinating with the Saudi Ministry of Labor to ensure that the affected Filipino workers will be able to get their two to six months' worth of unpaid salaries.
DOLE's labor attaches have already been in touch with the officials of Azmeel Contracting Corporation, and have reached initial agreements.
"We'll make sure 'yung kanilang commitment na every week magpapauwi sila ng 10 overseas workers natin after paying them their unpaid salaries," Bello said.
The labor secretary said the OFWs were not involved in violent protests conducted by Azmeel workers, following the company's alleged failure to pay their salaries.
"Nagkaroon ng violent protest ng workers pero hindi kasama ang ating mga kababayan doon sa violent protest," he said.
Bello pledged that those who would opt to go home will be assisted by the government.
"Nag-alok din ang Azmeel na bigyan sila ng trabaho pero karamihan sa kanila ay gusto na nilang umuwi... Ang commitment namin sa mga kababayan natin dito, bago magpasko, ay makakauwi na yung ating 1,473 overseas workers," he said.
OWWA earlier received a report that Azmeel excluded its workers from the premises after its assets were frozen by the Saudi government. — Dona Magsino/BM, GMA News