Aparty-list lawmaker on Friday dismissed as an “illegal cash grab” the 500-peso fee imposed by the Health Ministry of the Gulf Cooperation Council to Overseas Filipino Workers.
ACTS OFW party-list Aniceto Bertiz III filed House Resolution 1500, even as he disclosed that the Health Ministry of the GCC has imposed a new system for medical examinations for OFWs applying for jobs in GCC member countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
The new system, dubbed as “Freedom of Choice,” requires all OFW applicants to register to a website and pay an additional P500 fee upfront, Bertiz, an opposition lawmaker, said.
“The new system that is being rammed down the throats of our OFWs, our local recruiters, and medical clinics by foreign entities is nothing but another illegal scheme hatched to use our OFWs as cash cows,” Bertiz said in seeking a congressional probe into the matter.
“There is no explanation on the purpose of the additional fee, where it will go, and how it will benefit our workers. It is also very inconvenient and discriminatory to some OFWs since they would need a credit card to make an online payment and proceed with scheduling the medical examination,” he added.
Bertiz’ resolution stressed the need for Congress to look into the alleged “unlawful and onerous impositions” of the GCC Health Ministry on the Pre-Employment Medical Examination of OFWs bound for GCC countries.
He also called on the departments of Health and the Foreign Affairs to take decisive action to the so-called new medical registration scheme.
He said the GCC Health Ministry is set to earn from P164 million to P177 million annually from this scheme. In 2015, there were 353,658 new hires deployed to the GCC countries, he added
“I urge the DFA to exhaust all diplomatic means to register our adamant objection to this new medical registration scheme launched by faceless bureaucrats in countries that benefit greatly from the hard and honest work of Filipino workers,” he said.
Bertiz said that the scheme violates provisions of the Migrant Workers Act which guarantees the right of OFWs to choose the medical clinics where he or she will undergo pre-employment medical examination.
The law also prohibits the practice of “decking” where an OFW is required to go to an office to register and then is farmed out to a medical clinic located elsewhere, he added.
“This relentless effort to undermine our sovereignty and to earn from the backs of our modern-day heroes undermines our long history of friendship with allies in the Gulf region. Let us not waste time rejecting this new scheme because it violates our laws and adds to the burdens of our OFWs and their deploying agencies,” Bertiz said.
“We should have learned from the Winston Q8 debacle where we found out that the huge sums of money extorted from our OFWs were allegedly funneled to terror organizations,” Bertiz added. “We should not surrender our right to implement our own laws in our own territory on the dictates of foreign entities.”