Congress urged to probe 'monopoly' on medical tests for Kuwait-bound OFWs
A labor advocate on Monday urged Congress to look into what migrants' rights groups describe as an emerging "monopoly" of Metro Manila-based medical centers on Kuwait-bound overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
In a statement, Susan Ople, head of pro-OFW group Blas F. Ople Policy Center, particularly asked the labor committees of both the Senate and House of Representatives to look into the new medical certification scheme introduced by WINSTON Q8 Certifications Solutions.
According to Ople, the "mysterious" firm has set up a web platform where all job applicants for Kuwait must register for a fee of P8,400.
"Once they (would-be OFWs) deposit the money, they are given an activation code via e-mail so that they can register and select from seven medical clinics, all based in Metro Manila," she said, adding that only overseas job applicants that go through the WINSTON certification process would be considered for visa stamping by the Kuwait Embassy.
"By linking these prescribed medical tests to the visa stamping procedure of the Embassy of Kuwait, WINSTON Q8 operates as a monopoly, which is against our laws," said Ople.
She said WINSTON Q8 Certifications Solutions claims to represent the Ministry of Health of Kuwait.
"By claiming on its website (www.winstonkw.com) to represent the Ministry of Health of Kuwait, it encroaches upon our sovereignty. If this claim is true, is it therefore the intention of Kuwait’s Ministry of Health to interfere with our government’s own health and labor policies at great costs to our OFWs?” Ople asked.
At the Kapihan sa Manila Hotel, Roland Collado, vice chairman of the Philippine Association of Agencies for Kuwait (PHILAAK), voiced the industry’s own concerns over the WINSTON medical certification system.
The recruitment industry representative said that the Senate and House inquiries would help clarify the government’s position on the medical certification scheme.
“The WINSTON medical certification process discriminates against job applicants from the Visayas, and Mindanao regions. All its medical clinics are based in Metro Manila, and charge more compared to other DoH-accredited clinics," Collado said.
Ople and fellow OFW advocate Jun Aguilar of the Filipino Migrant Workers’ Group have earlier called on the Department of Health, the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Foreign Affairs to look into WINSTON Q8, which started operating last August 8, 2016.
In 2014, around 70,000 Filipinos left the country to work in Kuwait. Based on the results of a 2015 survey on overseas Filipinos, the Philippine Statistics Authority estimates the OFW population in Kuwait at around 140,000. —KBK, GMA News