Filipino migrant workers and their families today commemorated the 19th death anniversary of Flor Contemplacion by holding a protest rally scoring the government’s unending spate of state exactions and tax impositions on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
According to Sol Pillas, spokesperson for Migrante International, since Pres. BS Aquino assumed post, he had legalized “kotong” and state exactions on OFWs, particularly through the implementation of Admnistrative Order 31.
On October 1, 2012, BS Aquino signed AO 31, calling on all government heads and agencies to “rationalize the rates of their fees and charges, increasing their rates and impose new fees and charges.”
Since then, Pillas said, AO 31 practically institutionalized more state exactions and fees imposed on OFWs when existing onerouse fees remain under protest by the sector since BS Aquino took office.
Pillas cited a study by Migrante International estimating that since 2010 the BS Aquino government has been collecting an average of at least P26,267 from every OFW processed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). This amount is higher than the average P18,000 the government collected before 2010.
“Now with the recent increases in Philhealth premium, NBI clearance fees, e-passport fees, barangay clearance fees, and the mandatory contributions to Pag-Ibig, OWWA and mandatory insurance, among other requirements, the average cost for every OFW for the processing of their Overseas Employment Certificates (OECs) has reached an estimated P30,000,” Pillas said.
If 4,884 OFWs leave daily to work abroad, the government earns an average of P146.5 million a day from processing fees and other costs shouldered by OFWs! “Sobrang pangongotong, todo-todong kita ang gobyernong ito mula sa mga OFW. At hindi tumitigil at patuloy na nadadagdagan pa. BS Aquino, hindi gatasang-baka ang mga OFW!”
Migrante has recently filed a petition at the Supreme Court for a temporary restraining order on the recent 160% Philhealth premium hike.
Aside from the hike in costs of requirements for the OEC, other fees and tax schemes being imposed on OFWs include the affidavit of support (AOS) in UAE, Macau and some parts of Europe and the discriminatory P75 Comelec certificate of registration, other onerous fees specifically charged to seafarers and entertainers, and House Bill 3576 dubbed as the “forced remittance bill”.
Pillas slammed the further institutionalization of state exactions on OFWs when welfare services for OFWs in distress have gone from bad to worse. “Unresolved cases of OFWs continue to pile up at the POEA, National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).”
“State exactions have caused OFWs and their families to become debt-ridden, contributing greatly to the widespread landlessness and poverty of many. It is not unheard of for peasant families to mortgage or sell their small parcels of land or to submit their children to unpaid labor just to be able to pay debtors or produce the sum needed to pay for exorbitant pre-departure and placement fees,” she said.
“OFWs are plagued with an assortment of issues and problems throughout the entire migration cycle yet the BS Aquino government has barely done any decisive action to support and protect its migrant workers and their families. The BS Aquino government’s ability to uphold Filipino migrants’ rights and promote their welfare has lagged behind its apparent success in pursuing a more aggressive labor export policy,” she said.
Pillas said that the continuous onslaught of state exactions on OFWs, combined with the BS Aquino government’s lack of welfare service and assistance to OFWs in distress and the overall economic conditions of OFWs and their families amid widespread corruption and criminal neglect of the government are enough reasons for Filipino migrants to call for BS Aquino to step down from office. “Tama na, sobra na and bulok na serbisyo at bulok na sistema. No more BS!” ###