OEC exemption for returning OFWs lauded, permanent abolition of ‘legalized kotong’ urged

abolish OECGlobal alliance of overseas Filipinos and families Migrante International welcomed Governing Board Resolution 12, s.2016 of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) ordering the exemption of returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), otherwise known as Balik Manggagawa, from the overseas employment certificate (OEC).

According to Migrante International Garry Martinez, the exemption is a positive development in the Duterte administration’s thrust of streamlining services for OFWs to afford them ease in transactions and relief from government “red tape”.

However, Martinez said, that the problem with the OEC not merely lies in tedious processing and long queues for returning OFWs during so-called peak seasons for balikbayans.

“The OEC has long been deemed by OFWs and families as a money-making scheme by the government in the form of ‘legalized kotong’, from new hires and Balik Manggagawa alike. Therefore, we urge Pres. Duterte to not only limit the exemption to returning OFWs but to abolish the OEC permanently.”

The OEC is a requirement for every OFW who leaves the country. For new hires, the OEC will not be issued unless they pay a compulsory plethora of fees for every contract processed.

Martinez cited a study by Migrante International estimating an average of Php30,000 cost from every newly-hired OFW processed by the POEA. This amount ballooned from 2010’s average cost of P18,000 per new contract.

“With the increases in Philhealth premium, NBI clearance fees, e-Passport fees, barangay clearance fees, mandatory contributions to Pag-Ibig, OWWA and the mandatory insurance, among other requirements, the average cost for every newly-hired OFW for the issuance of the OEC has more than doubled during the last six years,” Martinez said.

Some 6,000 OFWs leave the country daily. From the OEC alone, the government earns a whopping Php65.7 billion, or Php180 million a day, from various processing fees and state exactions on OFWs. “Sobrang pangongotong, todo-todong kita ang gobyerno mula sa mga OFW. Ang panawagan namin kay Pang. Duterte ay tanggalin nang tuluyan ang OEC na ginagawang gatasang-baka ang ating mga OFW.”

 “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,” Martinez said. ###