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Saturday, May 25, 2024

House panel mulls bill for separate benefit system for Pinoys abroad

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A committee in the House of Representatives has started public hearings on a measure that mandates the creation of a separate social security and retirement benefit system for migrant workers.

This developed as Kabayan Rep. Ron Salo, chairman of the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, expressed hope that House Bill 8574, or the Kabayan OFW Pension bill will soon get approved.

Salo, in his sponsorship statement of the bill during the hearing conducted by his committee, said: “One of the central pillars of this initiative is the intention to address the social protection needed by our modern-day heroes. This pension program seeks to provide them with a lasting solution for social security and welfare.”

“By establishing the Kabayan OFW Pension System (KOPS), the government takes a significant step towards safeguarding the rights and welfare of OFWs. It is a testament to our dedication to protecting and empowering our modern-day heroes, who have contributed so significantly to our nation’s progress,” he said.

During the first hearing on HB 8574, the committee was told that only some 540,000 or 1.3 Filipino workers abroad are active members of the Social Security System (SSS) and only around 540,000 were active contributing members of the 1.3 million.

“This is an area that requires immediate attention. We ought to identify the challenges faced by SSS in implementing mandatory coverage so that we can address them in the proposed measure,” Salo, the bill’s principal author, said.

He added: “While the amended SSS Law requires OFWs to be mandatorily covered and treated as self-employed members, our OFWs clamor for a distinct pension system exclusively designed for them—a framework that acknowledges their unique circumstances, vulnerabilities, and contributions to our nation’s growth.”

Salo added the committee will seek the Department of Foreign Affairs advice “on the portability and exportability of social security rights, such that our OFWs will be able to carry their social security rights even if they move or work in another country, and that they will be able to receive their benefits abroad even if they are no longer working in the country where they earned their benefits. We will make sure that the system will be accessible, and sustainable, and that its risks will be managed well.”

Salo revealed that the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the [DFA], as well as various OFW groups such as the Philippine Professionals Organization-Qatar and OFWs Movement for Rural Reform and Development (OFW-MRRD) for the creation of an OFW Pension System support his bill.

He said discussion on the bill was “consistent with the government’s thrust and underscores the guidance of Speaker Martin G. Romualdez, who recognizes the invaluable contributions of OFWs to our nation.”

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