By ZYSA MEI ELLORAN
MANILA – Overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong and in the Middle East called for the abolition of the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC), saying this is an additional burden for them.
“We are asking the (Philippine Overseas Labor Office) to look into this and abolish the OEC because this is an added burden and cost to our fellow migrant workers,” said Hongkong-based migrant leader Dolores Pelaez of Migrante International.
The Overseas Employment Certificate is an exit clearance required by the Philippine government if they intend to return to their work abroad.
During the online forum, Filipino migrant workers said its processing has become a major problem for them as the “slow” and “stressful” processing has resulted in delays in their planned visits to their families, especially during this holiday season.
This is despite the supposed digitalization of all documents related to OFWs by the new Department of Migrant Workers in October. But OFWs shared that they have encountered a lot of technical glitches whenever accessing the web portal for the OECs.
They also questioned its relevance when they already have a passport, visa, and contract as proof that they are legitimate migrant workers.
“They said this will make the process easier but it ended up even more difficult,” said Marites Palma, founder of Social Justice for Migrant Worker.
Due to the difficulties of accessing the web portal, some overseas workers pay at least $60 HK ($7 or P426) to assist them in processing the OEC at a shop near the Philippine consulate in Hongkong.
One OFW, Mary Cuanan, said that after receiving her OEC, she learned that there is an error in her document as it stated that she is a male. When she went to the consulate to correct the document, she said there was no one there to help her.
“They should have someone to assist us with the online appointments so that we are not forced to pay at the shop (near the consulate) and pay,” said Cuanan.
More government fees
OFWs also expressed their complaint regarding the mandatory Pag-ibig fees that is tied in the issuance of their OEC.
Pag-IBIG Fund, the government’s housing loan program, and POEA issued Joint Advisory 01-2022 reminding OFWs to provide their pag-IBIG Membership ID Number (MID) in their POEA e-Registration Accounts last April 2022.
“Just look at the time and money that you need to shell out while you are in the middle of preparing for your flight. Instead of packing your things, you need to get that Pag-ibig first,” said Palma.
Gina Balagon, an OFW based in Dubai, also assailed the dismissive treatment she received when she asked assistance from the POEA staff there.
On the other hand, Mark Louie Aquino of Migrante Middle East said that the OEC should instead stand for “Overseas Experience Calamity” due to the difficulties it has caused them, whom the government has hailed as modern-day heroes. Yet, he added, the government has always put the burden on them.