Nationalist People’s Coalition Congressman Win Gatchalian has questioned the cost of the employment certificate being imposed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), saying the government should make the document free of charge to honor their contribution to the economy.
The POEA’s Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) serves as the travel exit clearance at airports and immigration counters for OFWs. The OEC exempts them from paying the travel tax amounting to P1,620 and airport terminal fee worth P550.
OFWs on vacation who are returning to the same employer need to obtain an OEC to be able to leave the country and avail of travel tax and terminal fee exemptions.
“OFWs should not be made to pay for their OEC in recognition of their contribution to the economy as this entails additional cost for them. Our OFWs keep the economy afloat and help maintain demand from households for goods and services,” said Gatchalian, a senior vice chair of the House Committee on Tourism.
Gatchalian said it is ironic that our OFWs, hailed as the nation’s modern day heroes (Bagong Bayani), have been exempted from paying travel tax and airport terminal fees but are made to pay for the very certificate that will enable their exemption.
The Valenzuela City lawmaker emphasized that the P119.50-fee being collected as payment for the OEC already puts too much burden on OFWs who have to pay for other government fees and contributions.
The P119.50 consists of the P100 charged by the POEA for the OEC itself and P19.50 for a “service fee.”
OFWs may also have to pay a “handling fee” charged by some banks for deposits in their provincial branches.
“It would do well for the government’s image and reputation to improve its services to OFWs without milking them. Requiring OFWs who return to the country for vacation to obtain a certificate just so they can leave the country again to send back remittances is too much,” explained Gatchalian.
An estimated total of 2.3 million OFWs worked abroad anytime from April to September last year, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
At the end of 2014, OFWs sent cash and non-cash remittances amounting to $26.924 billion, up from $25.351 billion in 2013, based on reports.
“OFWs are modern-day heroes who brave loneliness, abuse, and even conflict to send hard-earned money to their families. The government should remember that OFWs would not have to leave home if only the government excelled in its job of creating sufficient work opportunities that would give people good pay and job security so they can support their families,” said Gatchalian.
Nearly a fourth of OFWs preferred Saudi Arabia as their country of destination, followed by United Arab Emirates (15.6 percent), Singapore (6.4 percent), Kuwait and Qatar (5.3 percent), and Hong Kong (5 percent), the PSA reported.
Of the total number of OFWs, 1.17 million are females while 1.149 million are males. A big percentage of the total are laborers and unskilled workers (32.8 percent), followed by service workers and shop and market sales workers (16.5 percent), and trades and related workers (12.8 percent). (Monica Cantilero)