Monday, November 9, 2015

OFW forced to spend P26,000 over non-existent POEA desk in Boracay

An overseas Filipino worker was forced to spend P26,000 on airline tickets because of the absence of a Philippine Overseas Employment Agency's (POEA) desk at the Kalibo International Airport.
"We got back in our Singapore apartment around 3:15 a.m. More than 8 hours after our original arrival time, unnecessarily braving Manila traffic from Terminal 4 to Terminal 1, taxi extortion, long immigration lines, seeing fellow passengers desperately ensuring no bullets are planted in their luggage, forfeited non refundable non rebook able Kalibo - Singapore SQ tickets, and 26,000 pesos poorer," Singapore-based Alvin Miranda wrote in a Facebook post last November 4.
Miranda flight to Singapore was apparently delayed because he failed to immediately secure an Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) from the POEA, which supposedly should have a desk at the Kalibro international airport.
The OECs or "exit passes" are required by law to prove that "the holder is a bona fide OFW."
Miranda said in his post that he first attempted to secure an OEC from the POEA at Kalibo's airport, but he was informed by employees manning the transport tax booth that the POEA's booth no longer existed.
Since there was no POEA people to issue him the OEC, he said he asked airport authorities if he could still check in and get on his flight without the document.
"Our request was denied. This was when I asked to see an immigration officer for me to explain our case... The officer took almost 30 minutes to see us and only came when we demanded it furiously from the airport staff," Miranda wrote.
After 30 minutes of waiting for immigration supervisor Jocelyn Dequina, Miranda and his partner were requested by Dequina to call a POEA-Iloilo officer named Atty. Ruby to request for an OEC.
"You would think by now they would have had the sense to do the calls by themselves, but of course we were only led to an office to get hold of a landline (and only after raising our voice saying we are not using our international mobile number to do all the calls!)," Miranda recalled.
He was then made to call the overseas agency's Manila office and look for someone named Jingle or Ophelia. Upon calling the office, he was advised to re-book their flights for two days in order to secure their OECs in Manila.
"I demanded for full names but got nothing. I demanded for an explanation as to why there is no OEC counter in this international airport and her only response was 'Well the government is not rich! What can we do!'" Miranda related.
Sensing his hostility, Ophelia diverted him to another person named George, a customer support engineer for POEA's online OEC application service.
"Apparently he is but a customer support engineer for the online application and no matter how helpful he tried to be, he had no authority whatsoever to grant us the elusive paper," Miranda said.
They were then forced to book a flight to Manila and another flight to Singapore after their non-rebookable flight left in the middle of the OEC debacle.
'Online is the way to go'
Replying to Mirandsa's Facebook post, POEA chief Hans Leo Cacdac offered to help him personally and suggested that the OFW use the only OEC system next time.
"Online is the way to go. If you will email me in the above stated address, we will walk you thru the process," Cacdac said in his reply to Miranda's post.
The suggestion, however, was criticized by another commenter, Carlo Abueg.
Miranda also reiterated to Cacdac that the online system was troublesome.
"It also did not work for us the last time. The online system is buggy at best. Why can't we have a permanent card for everyone?" Miranda told Cacdac.
"The online system could be better as the process could be paperless at some point in time. But we need understanding so we could perfect the system," Cacdac insisted.
In a phone interview with GMA News Online on Saturday, Cacdac said the online OEC system now allows OFWs to input their passport number in lieu of an OEC number.
"That has sort of made it more accessible to many OFWs," he said.
Cacdac added that the online system, which he said has processed more than 200,000 OECs since its inception, will soon offer a credit card payment scheme in addition to their debit and remittance system.
They are also working on making the process more paperless, beginning with transferring OECs to smartphones and tablets.
"We're working on a paperless system where people don't need to print out the OEC. Pwedeng i-print na lang sa tablet or sa smartphone," Cacdac said.
Next year, OFWs would only need to update their profiles- change home addresses or work details- on the POEA's online database to exit the country, as the POEA's database would be connected to the Bureau of Immigration.
Though Miranda did not take up Cacdac's offer, he said his friends have aided him drawing attention to the issue.
"Some concerned friends have forwarded my post to some senators and legislators and I hope to be able to get an audience to address the issue ASAP," he said.
"Christmas season is fast approaching and the OEC process takes away valuable vacation time to millions of OFWs," Miranda said.
Cacdac clarified POEA's presence in Kalibo.
He said there is POEA presence in Kalibo's airport, however, the booth had set times and was not active at the time of Miranda's arrival.
He said, additional shifts will be added to accommodate OFWs with irregular schedules. —ALG/LBG, GMA News

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