Migrant group asks OWWA to adjust reference rate for OFWs membership fee

AN alliance of Filipino migrant rights group in the Middle East today asks the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to consider adjusting its self-imposed reference rate in charging OFWs compulsory membership.

A look at the home page of OWWA’s website (www.owwa.gov.ph), at the upper left-side, it indicates that OWWA reference rate for November 2010 in charging OFWs membership fee is 1:43.516, dollar-peso exchange rate.

John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator said the peso is better appreciating against the dollar for the past weeks. He noted that as of November 3, it closed to 42.59.

“If OWWA is indeed using its self-imposed referencerate of 1:43.516 and not the present 1:42.59 exchange rate, then it is overcharging OFWs,” Monterona averred.

He said the almost P1 difference is like a ‘heavy load’ on striving OFWs’ shoulder.

The payment of US$25 for OFWs membership to OWWA is a requirement, aside from the P900 premium and yearly charge for Philhealth coverage, for an OFW to acquire the required Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC).

“It is prudent on the part of OWWA administrator Carmelita Dimzon to order the adjustment of the OWWA membership reference rate based on the present dollar-peso exchange,” he added.

P42 at year-end

On a related issue on the forecast that the peso may close to 42 by the end of this year, Monterona said the government must consider putting up a stabilization fund to lessen the impact of strong peso against the dollar.

“Obviously, stronger peso against the dollar would financially hurt if not put OFWs and their families on dire economic drawback considering that the prices of basic goods and services are continuously on the rise for the last months,” Monterona said.

He said it is OFWs apprehension every time peso is showing strong appreciation against the dollar.

Monterona cited for instance in 2006, dollar-peso is about 1:48, then reached to a peak of 1:56 exchange rate on the same year.

“This simply means an automatic reduction or lost of income of P2,000 using the example above, and such lost of income is more than the price of a sack of rice enough for OFW family 1 month consumption,” Monterona explained.

Normally, Monterona said, skilled OFWs in Saudi Arabia and in other countries in the Middle East are receiving a monthly salary of US$400, while constrcution workers and domestic helpers are receiving a meager income of US$260 to US$320a month.

Monterona said strong peso is hitting hard the OFWs and their families amid the rising cost of living and prices of goods and basic services.

“The Aquino administration must do something about this, but not necessarily to directly intervene on the foreign exchange market,” Monterona said.


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