Gov’t Rakes Billions of Pesos Annually on OFW Processing Charges, Studies Show

Furthermore, authentication of these documentary requirements likewise follows a process involving Authentication Unit, Legal Office (AULO)-Malacañang, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the foreign embassies concerned, Gaite said.

In addition to these, an applicant must also secure a passport, a seaman’s or artist’s record book, and necessary clearances such as police and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) clearances, and even barangay (village) clearance, Gaite further said.

Seafarers pay more

The International Seafarers’ Action (ISAC) Philippines Foundation, Inc.’s paper, meanwhile, says that the government is raking too much also from the seafarers.

In their 2004 Preliminary Study on the Marginalization of Seafarers, ISAC revealed that after a seafarer gets his degree, he still has to face the daunting prospect of qualifying to become a seafarer.

“[T]the qualification requirements for seafaring are very stringent. International regulations and competency standards require huge financial investments in terms of training courses and other documents,” the study read.

“But the seafarer is further faced with a confused government bureaucracy that multiplies the processes one needs to undergo to qualify,” it further read.

Like any other OFW, government-issued documents such as passports, (from the Dept. of Foreign Affairs or DFA), seafarer’s registry (POEA), seaman’s book (MARINA), and certificates of competency (PRC or Professional Regulations Commission for officers, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority or TESDA for ratings), must be secured at the seafarer’s expense, says ISAC.

A seafarer who refused to be named said he needed to shell out at least P200,000 just to go on board.

Based on the ISAC study, seafarers are also made to undergo what is described as unnecessary training.

These additional training sessions are often required by the agency but are not required to get on board, the seafarers discover later. This, the ISAC study said is in connection to the government’s labor export policy which prescribes additional training (on top of the STCW requirements) to “maintain the competitive edge of Filipino seafarers.”

Corruption in the government robs OFWs, too

Aside from the exorbitant fees being charged by the government and some manning agencies, the OFW is also being robbed by corruption in government, say the two groups.

ISAC discovered that the average expenses of the respondents for each of these government documents exceeded the actual processing fee. This is due to graft and corruption in the bureaucracy, ISAC said.

“Individuals who were interviewed explained that sometimes it is ‘necessary’ to pay more to ‘expedite’ the processing of their documents. This shows how corruption is bred by the existing set-up of multifarious bureaucratic layers and requirements,” ISAC said.

Gaite revealed that there undetermined amounts collected from processing by the MECO (Manila Economic and Cultural Office) which are not formally entered into the national receipts of the Philippine government but go directly to the Office of the President as “donations”.

“Moreover, in 2004, P530.382 ($9,412,633.027 based on March 1, 2004 exchange rate) million worth of OWWA Trust Fund was transferred to PhilHealth as part of the campaign kitty of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” said Gaite.

Other case of alleged corruption involving the OFW fund in the OWWA was the Classroom Galing sa Manggagawa Abroad program (CGMA) by the government, for which money was collected from OFWs purportedly to establish education facilities abroad. However, the facilities never materialized, said Gaite. (Bulatlat.com)

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