Group to pursue lifetime OFW membership to OWWA, pensions for retired OFWs

FILIPINO migrants rights group, Migrante-Middle East (M-ME), today said it will push for every overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) lifetime membership to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the government’s premier welfare agency adjunct to the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), mandated to provide programs and welfare services to OFWs and their dependents.

“We will push for our OFWs lifetime membership to OWWA that majority of us wanted. Non-membership, which means simply a failure to renew and pay the US$25 membership fee, should not be cited as justification for the government not to render programs and welfare services which are supposed to be free anyway,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator and Vice-chairman of MIGRANTE Sectoral Party of OFWs and families.

Monterona said OFWs and their organizations strongly opposed the implementation of the OWWA Omnibus Policies, a codification of various rules and regulations of OWWA that was approved on September 2003 by the OWWA Board and a brainchild of then DoLE secretary Patricia Sto.Tomas under the anti-OFW Arroyo administration.

Sections 3 and 4, Article IV of the OWWA Omnibus Policies set the effectivity and renewal of OFWs membership to OWWA, respectively.

“The OWWA Omnibus Policy is clearly anti-OFW. For one, OFWs membership to OWWA was made on contractual basis of 2-year contract. Non-renewal automatically and arbitrarily dismember an OFW as such could not anymore avail OWWA programs and services,” Monterona added.

With the implementation of OWWA Omnibus Policies, some of the programs and services were not funded and eventually were phased out. “The General Financial Assistance program is an example,” Monterona noted.

Monterona noted thousands of undocumented OFWs were bared to avail OWWA programs and services with the implementation of the OWWA Omnibus Policies.

“Though undocumented, our fellow OFWs are working hard and they continue to send remittances to their families that surge local consumption, not to mention the income the govt. is getting from imposing taxes to the banks and remittance companies. Kasama pa rin sila sa mga tinaguriang ‘Bagong Bayani’, then why exclude them from availing OWWA programs and services just because they failed to renew their membership to OWWA?” Monterona lamented.

He said that support mechanisms should be put in place to accommodate the concerns of undocumented OFWs while working abroad and of former OFWs who have decided to stay ‘for good’ in the Philippines.

“OWWA fund, pooled from US$25 mandatory fee from OFWs believed to have reached P14.8-B including assets and investments, must serve the needs of OFWs– whether documented or not, whether with or without contract — and their families as well, through concrete services and benefits including medical assistance, burial, repatriation, social security, pensions and other welfare essentials,” Monterona adding that MIGRANTE will renew its campaign for the scrapping of the anti-OFW OWWA Omnibus Policies.

He said the creation of an OWWA Charter that will safeguard and protect OFWs trust fund and to ensure that there will be enough programs and services to OFWs and their dependents is on MIGRANTE’s agenda once the group won a seat in Congress via party-list election on May 2013.

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