Studies by the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) and the International Seafarers’ Action (ISAC) Philippines Foundation, Inc. show that the government rakes in billions of pesos from mandatory exactions on prospective overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
BY NOEL SALES BARCELONA
Aling Rose (real name withheld upon request), 47, a single mother of four, has been working in Oman for almost six years now.
As in the case of other Filipinos who go to work abroad, poverty had pushed her to try her luck working as a domestic helper for a wealthy businessman in Oman. With a salary of more than P12,000 (US$200) a month, she is trying to make her children’s life, somehow, comfortable.
“Mahal ang mag-abroad” (It’s expensive to work abroad), she told this reporter in an interview the night before she went home to her town in Occidental Mindoro.
“Sa medical pa lang, gagastos ka na nang P5,000 ($103.76). Iba pa ang bayad sa OWWA (Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration), taxes, passport renewal, at marami pang ibang dokumentong kailangan mo para makaalis ka. Siguro, gagastos ka nang mga P12,000 ($249.04) o higit pa, sa pag-aasikaso pa lamang ng mga papeles mo. Kapag baguhan ka, kailangan mo ring maglagay para makaalis” (For the medical examination alone, you will spend around P5,000. Other fees include OWWA membership fee, taxes, passport renewal and many other documents you need to process to be able to go abroad. Perhaps, you will shell out at least P12,000 or more to process your papers. If you’re new, some agencies charge a placement fee for you to work abroad), she said.
However, during the interview, she refused to reveal how much it cost her during her first time working abroad but she told this reporter that it was quite a sum.
Raking in billions out of processing fees
A study conducted by the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) revealed that the government rakes in an astounding P16.601-billion (US$344.745 million) through documentary fees charged to Filipinos who want to work overseas.
Ferdinand Gaite, national president of Courage, said in his paper titled “State Exaction and Corruption: Robbing the Filipino Migrants Twice”, which he had delivered during the 1st International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees in Manila last year, that the said amount could have been increased due to several seminars and testing that the government now requires a prospective overseas Filipino worker (OFW) to take.
The estimate was based on the 2007 statistics on the number of overseas Filipinos which the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) had published in 2008. Based on the Compendium of OFW Statistics 2007, there are 1.08 million Filipinos who went overseas to work that year.
Each of them, says Gaite, needed to pay at least P15,400 ($320.093) to process the necessary documents and other requirements for working abroad.
In his paper, Gaite revealed that 76 signatures are needed to be able to complete all the documentary requirements for working abroad. Each signature amounting to some P100 ($2.975).
“Aside from POEA that issues the overseas employment certificate, there are 10 other government entities involved in the whole documentation process of deployment. Employment certificates are authenticated by the Regional Trial Court; diplomas and transcript of records are authenticated by the Department of Education (DepEd) or the Commission on Higher Education (CHED); board ratings and board certificates are authenticated by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC); birth and marriage certificates are authenticated by the National Statistics Office (NSO); medical certificates are authenticated by the Department of Health (DOH),” said Gaite.