FILIPINO MIGRANT WORKERS and their organizations have been campaigning for the scrapping of the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) for years now, as they consider it to be an arbitrary fee that is part of the bundle of Philippine state exactions on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

Not only does the OEC cost them hard-earned money, but they are also inconvenienced by long queues in consular offices that are often undermanned due to the government’s frequent budget cuts of essential services to OFWs.

The strong and persistent campaigns by migrant organizations, most notably by Migrante International and its overseas chapters, have resulted in promises by officials of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to reform or end the OEC system. In 2012, DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said that the OEC “will now become co-terminus with the validity of [the OFW’s] contract”.

Better yet, POEA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac hinted in 2013 that the OEC will essentially be scrapped when he declared through social media that: “We are working on a system where an OFW in our database with updated OWWA [Overseas Workers Welfare Administration] etc won’t need an OEC. Give us ’til [the] 1st half of 2014″.

But the recent visit of DOLE officials in Hong Kong, led by no less than Baldoz and Cacdac themselves, dashed the expectations of millions of OFWs when they denied ever having made such promises. On the contrary, the two have even strengthened the system by promoting its online version through the department’s “Balik Manggagawa” program.

This is an in-your-face turnabout by these DOLE officials, who are now bent on implementing the Aquino administration’s ruthless policy of squeezing OFWs to generate public funds that will later be misallocated and misspent.

Migrante Sectoral Party (MSP) is extremely frustrated over DOLE’s lack of concern and sincerity in enacting much-needed reforms for OFWs, especially on eliminating such unjust state exactions as the OEC.

The department is merely interested in milking the Filipino migrant workers dry, in line with the government’s labor export program and the World Bank’s profit-driven “migration for development” prescriptions.

In the eyes of OFWs everywhere, Baldoz and Cacdac are liars and con-artists who pretend to stand by the rights and welfare of OFWs, but who actually stab them in the back with ineffectual concessions like the “online OEC” and facile dialogues with migrant organizations.

They are untrustworthy, duplicitous government officials who cannot even stand by their public statements.

MSP-HK fully supports the demand of Filipino migrant workers for the scrapping of the OEC, which it considers to be an essential violation of the Migrant Workers Act of 1995. We also call for the resignation of Baldoz for being anti-labor and anti-migrant by masterminding the perpetuation of the OEC and other unwarranted state fees on OFWs.

Filipino workers certainly deserve a better DOLE secretary who is primarily accountable to the can deliver on their fundamental expectations.

MIGRANTE Sectoral Party – Hong Kong
c/o APMM, No. 4 Jordan Road,
Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR
E-mail: migrante.hk@gmail.com