About 80 representatives from various OFW groups and overseas Filipino migrant communities attended an online forum or consultation organized by Philhealth on Friday, 3 July 2020. The OFW groups sought to express their positions on the Duterte government’s mandatory Philhealth and premium rate hike. Facilitators of the forum however asked OFW representatives to limit their presentation to their proposed premium rate.
Migrante International, Migrante Europe, BAYAN Hong Kong and Gabriela Hong Kong were among the progressive groups which reiterated strong opposition to the mandatory Philhealth and premium rate hike. The overwhelming majority of the rest of the 80 other OFW groups expressed the same position with many raising concerns like the absence of aid during the COVID-19 pandemic and the unresolved issue of corruption within Philhealth. They insist that Philhealth membership should be voluntary and not mandatory since Filipino migrants are already covered by existing healthcare programs in host countries and would not benefit from the Philhealth insurance. OFWs have also complained that there were no consultations conducted by the government with overseas Filipino communities prior to Duterte’s signing of the Universal Healthcare Act. Moreover, Philhealth is not recognized as valid in overseas hospitals.
Migrante International views the numerous state exactions imposed by the Duterte government as burdensome to hapless Filipino migrants affected by the COVID-19 crisis. President Duterte cannot simply wash his hands as if he has nothing to do with the mandatory Philhealth membership and premium rate hike. These impositions were clearly indicated in the Universal Healthcare Act which Duterte himself signed on 20 February 2019. Sans bilateral agreements with host countries, OFWs will be forced to pay for employer contributions as well. Worse, they’ll be penalized if they fail to remit their Philhealth contributions.
OFW and Filipino migrant groups from different leanings have already spoken. Whatever recommendation or submission out of the online forum that Philhealth will be forwarding to congress, we expect that it will reflect the prevalent position expressed by the OFW groups which is the call to make Philhealth voluntary and that there should be no increase. The Duterte regime must heed their call and completely scrap the mandatory Philhealth and premtoium rate hike. Migrante International fully supports Makabayan Bloc’s House Bill 6698 to remove these unjust provisions from the Universal Healthcare Act. Our hard-earned money should go directly to our families back home in the Philippines and not to a corrupt government agency like Philhealth. In a country whose healthcare system is dominated by profit-oriented private corporations, Migrante International asserts that a genuine universal health care should be free and readily accessible for the entire Filipino people.