By RIE TAKUMI, GMA News
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Wednesday denied that the new ID system for OFWs was rushed in time for President Rodrigo Duterte's second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24.
"Itong idea of OFW ID, panahon pa ni former President [Fidel] Ramos," Bello said at a news conference.
"It is high time that our OFWs should be given this benefit of an ID. Hindi ito para sa SONA. Matagal na ito. Hindi ito minadali."
Bello said the idea was only realized now because of Duterte's initiative. "I am proud to say that we now have a president who put into realization 'yung matagal nang pangako sa ating mga OFW," he said.
The new ID called iDOLE or ID of the Department of Labor and Employment will replace the Overseas Employment Certificate, which many OFWs want abolished for supposedly being useless and a financial burden.
New ID will be free
Amid criticism, Bello stressed that the iDOLE will be free.
"Libre, absolutely free ang cost ng OFW ID in relation to the OFW kahit balik manggagawa," he said. "It could be from OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) funds, it could be from DOLE funds, but definitely no OFWs will pay for his or her ID."
Kodao Productions reported on Saturday that the OFW ID will cost Filipinos P501 while the delivery will cost them an additional P200.
Militant pro-migrant group Migrante also pointed out that there are still no implementing guidelines on how the OFW ID will work.
Bello said the DOLE will hold consultations with major recruitment agencies, the OWWA, Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), and local government units regarding the implementing guidelines of the OFW ID and how agencies or employers will shoulder its cost.
"Ang sabi ko nga, yung tungkol sa payment or cost ng ID is not a problem because it will be a decision that will be arrived at after consultation with the employer, LGU, and OWWA, and POEA," he said.
The consultation, Bello said, is set for next week.
Lucy Sermonia, president of the Coalition of Licensed Agencies for Domestic and Service Workers (CLADS), said they expect to settle the confusion after next week's consultation.
"Meron ngayon pong lumalabas na mga payment na isho-shoulder ng recruitment industry," she said. "Ito po ay magkakaroon po kami ng malawak na konsultasyon dito po sa ating pamahalaan lalong-lalo na po dito sa Department of Labor."
Burden on employers
She said shouldering the reported P700 fee will be too much as employers already shoulder expenses, including placement fees, that OFWs are not obliged to pay under Republic Act 10022 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.
Smaller agencies, she added, will not be able to keep up with payments if the costs for OFW IDs will fall on recruitment agencies.
Despite the confusion, Sermonia said they support the new OFW ID system.
"It's about time po talaga na magkaroon ng ganitong ID ang ating mga bayaning OFW na regalo po ng ating pamahalaan under the Duterte administration," she said. —KBK, GMA News