Overseas Filipino workers face the dread of job losses amidst the COVID pandemic crisis aggravated by onerous government fees as 2021 ushers in. This was declared today by Migrante International (MI), an alliance of progressive organizations composed of overseas Filipinos and their families.
Certainly, the mandatory PhilHealth membership and premium rate hike has been a burden for OFWs since the passage of the Universal Healthcare Act (UHC) signed by President Duterte on February 20, 2019. Under the UHC law the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is mandated by the State to protect and promote the right to health of all Filipinos. Ironically, PhilHealth has been used as a tool for unscrupulous health officials appointed by the President to amass billions of members’ contributions for their own selfish interests.
According to reports, a “mafia” involving the whole of Philippine Health Insurance Corp.’s executive committee has stolen some P15 billion from the agency using different fraudulent schemes. Why should contributors suffer by paying increased premiums in response to the agency’s lack of funds? The corrupt PhilHealth officials involved should be held accountable and duly prosecuted.
Meanwhile, OFWs believe that President Duterte’s recent announcement to defer the collection of increased PhilHealth premiums is only a tactic to quell the anger and anxiety of the people especially during this COVID crisis. Merely deferring the increased premium does nothing to calm down the people.
OFWs and Overseas Filipinos demand a total scrap of mandatory PhilHealth membership and make it voluntary for those with capacity to pay contributions. What the people want is a genuine, pro-people, universal health care program through free and comprehensive medical and health services.
Migrante International and all its chapters abroad urgently call on the government to provide services and protection of OFWs affected by the COVID pandemic at home and in the countries of work. Let the DOLE-AKAP serve its purpose to extend aid not just to a few and privileged ones but to every OFW. OFWs and Filipino migrants vow to continue campaigning for the passage of HB6698 that would remove the unjust provisions of the UHC law mandating the premium rate hike and mandatory membership for OFWs and overseas Filipinos.