MANILA – Overseas Filipino workers (OFW) on Tuesday welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision ordering the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to allow them to pay contributions on a voluntary basis.
In a statement, Jun Avelino, who is working in Monaco, lauded the President’s action as they do not need to pay the state-run medical insurance premium which is a requirement before they can secure an overseas employment certificate (OEC).
“This is a great victory for the OFWs – a realization that when we are together in fighting against a common issue, we have a bigger chance of emerging victorious in that battle,” the OFW from Manobo tribe of Davao Occidental said.
Aladino Bulan, former head of the Bayanihan ng mga Manggagawa sa Konstruksyon sa Qatar – Federation of Free Workers (BMKQ-FFW), also supports the voluntary payment of the PhilHealth premium for Filipinos working abroad.
“As a former OFW, I do understand what OFWs feel right now especially in this time of uncertainties. And in my own opinion, it would be better not to make the payment of PhilHealth premium mandatory, especially to our skilled OFWs. I still remember my last year as OFW. I didn’t pay my PhilHealth premium but still, I’ve got my OEC,” he said.
Meanwhile, BMKQ-FFW president Ressie Fos said Filipinos abroad were not consulted regarding the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act.
“The supposed policy not to issue OEC to OFWs if PhilHealth premiums and including arrears with compounded interest are not paid is totally absurd – it’s like ‘OEC for ransom’ as implementing agencies’ mandatory tool,” Fos said.
Meanwhile, FFW president Sonny Matula urged PhilHealth to design a package of benefits that will tailor-fit the needs of OFWs.
In particular, he said the government must strictly enforce Section 9 of the UHC Act which states that “PhilHealth shall provide additional program benefits for direct contributors, where applicable.”
On Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced that Duterte issued the directive after OFW groups criticized PhilHealth’s move to increase by .25 percent the premium contribution of OFWs starting this year.
Under PhilHealth Circular No. 2020-0014 dated April 2, the “premium of overseas Filipinos shall be computed based on their monthly income, to be paid in Philippine peso equivalent, in accordance with the terms of payment and corresponding due dates as prescribed by the corporation.”
The circular mandates OFWs earning a monthly income of PHP10,000 to PHP60,000 to pay 3 percent of their monthly salary, higher than the 2.75 percent in 2019. (IA/PNA)