MANILA – A party-list lawmaker on Monday proposed to streamline the process of application and acquisition of the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) as a pre-departure requirement for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
In a privilege speech, OFW Rep. Marissa “Del Mar” Magsino said OFWs have complained about the long and tedious process in acquiring OECs occasioned by back-and-forth dealings with concerned agencies.
Magsino also highlighted the accompanying exorbitant expenses for the prescribed requirements, and the insufficiency of appointment schedules and personnel assigned to process the applications vis-à-vis the volume of applications.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) requires OFWs to secure an OEC before they depart the country to work abroad.
It is an “exit clearance” certifying that an OFW underwent legal recruitment and is presented at the immigration as proof that the OFW has a legal employer abroad and has undergone documentation to work abroad.
“They want to abide by the government regulations, but they deem the processes as redundant, expensive, and complicated that it makes it utterly discouraging for them to comply, and worse, they are forced to circumvent the process," Magsino said.
"Kadugtong nito, pakiwari nila ay tila tinuturing silang ‘second-class citizens’ ng ganitong sistema at ng pakikitungo sa kanila ng mga opisyal at tauhan ng ating pamahalaan (In addition to this, they were also saying they are treated like 'second-class citizens' through this system and the way the government officials and employees treat them)," she added.
Magsino also cited complaints of OFWs in Indonesia regarding being "off-loaded" by Philippine immigration officials at the point of departure despite possessing valid OECs, visas, and other documentary requirements on flimsy grounds.
“With their documentary requirements having gone through rigorous processes and properly issued, the immigration personnel’s duty must simply be administrative and facilitative; they have no basis to off-load when all documents are in order," she said.
The OFW Party-list conducted three rounds of policy dialogues with OFWs in Indonesia, and a courtesy call on the Indonesian Minister of Law and Human Rights, who also oversees the Immigration Bureau in October.
“As the only legislator representing OFWs and OFs in the 19th Congress, I carry upon me the great challenge to help protect the rights and promote the welfare of a global constituency. And it is incumbent upon me to see firsthand how they are faring in their host countries and to personally listen to their sentiments and suggestions, thereby bridging the gaps between our policies and its actual implementation, and filing remedial legislation if needed,” Magsino said.
She also brought up other policy concerns discussed during the dialogues, including the current limit on direct hires, persisting cases of illegal recruitment, the need for a Philippine Overseas Labor Office in all foreign posts, the mandatory PhilHealth contribution of OFWs and how the Sim Card Registration will affect OFWs.
“Naniniwala ako na may sapat na kapangyarihan at kakayahan ang ating pamahalaan, partikular and DMW [Department of Migrant Workers] upang pamunuhan ang mga pagbabagong ninanais ng ating mga OFWs at OFs [overseas Filipinos] (I believe that our government has enough power and capacity, particularly the DMW to spearhead the changes that our OFWs and OFs)," she said.
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) earlier reported that technical glitches primarily in the connectivity with the OEC validation system of the DMW have been ironed out with the rollout of the latest update of its Border Control Information System (BCIS).
Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco said the new system which was implemented last Oct. 28 is the centralized database of all travel records of incoming and outgoing passengers.
It is a database sharing information that would allow the BI access to the OEC records, lessening paperwork for departing OFWs.
“This e-system has truly been instrumental in the improvement of services of both the BI and the DMW for OFWs. We thank DMW Secretary Susan Ople for the partnership in improving services for our kababayans,” the BI chief said.
The DMW's system is integrated into the BI’s system, allowing immigration officers to search and view the OFW record corresponding to the OEC presented.
Apart from faster processing, the system also allowed BI officers to immediately verify and intercept fake OECs upon presentation by illegal recruitment and human trafficking victims. (PNA)