By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Lawmakers cheered on Tuesday, May 5 President Duterte’s order to remove the mandatory three-percent Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) contribution of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). They said the Chief Executive showed his “sincere commitment” to protect the country’s modern-day heroes.
House Majority Leader Rep. Martin Romualdez (Leyte 1st district) hailed the President’s directive to the PhilHealth to suspend the rate increase and make optional the payment by OFWs of PhilHealth premiums before they can be issued overseas employment certificate (OEC).
“The President’s action demonstrates his compassion or malasakit for the millions of overseas Filipino workers whom we hail as ‘bagong bayani’ for keeping the economy afloat with their regular remittances. Instead, we have to continue working on providing assistance to them to survive the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic. They have been enduring many hardships, including extended separation from their families and loved ones,” he said.
“It (order) reflects his (President Duterte) sincere commitment to help and protect our OFWs in this time of COVID-19 crisis. OFWs are our global rockstars. They have been recognized internationally for being hard workers, who work with dignity and pride, very hospitable and with unparalleled resourcefulness in their undertakings,” he added.
Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu thanked President Duterte for “championing and promoting the welfare and interest of our OFWs and protect their rights.”
“The country achieved genuine progress because of their (OFWs) earnings that has been fueling the economy,” he said.
Ako Bisaya party-list Rep. Sonny Lagon described as “pro-people” the President’s directive, even as he also thanked the President for looking after the welfare of the OFWs, the country’s “best assets.”
“The President is pro-people and he knows very well that the PhilHealth proposal in this time of COVID-19 pandemic will just be an additional burden to OFWs. Most of them returned to our country after losing their jobs,” he said.
“We should find ways now on how to hone the skills of our returning OFWs to meet the new employment’s demand,” Lagon explained.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) have decided to scrap the requirement for OFWs to pay PhilHealth premiums before they can be issued OEC after the OFWs protested against a Philhealth circular on the mandatory three-percent contribution of OFWs and making this a pre-requisite to receive OEC.
“With this decision of the POEA and OWWA, our OFWs no longer have to worry about being prevented from leaving the country because of unpaid PhilHealth contributions, which increased to 3 percent of their monthly salary this year,” said Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera.