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Friday, October 24, 2008

Recruiters Propose Visa Waiver for Foreign Employers

and Other Measures to Sustain OFW Deployment

Federated Associations of Manpower Exporters, Inc. urged the Department of Labor and Employment to implement a package of bold measures to ensure the continuous deployment of overseas Filipino workers, saying overseas employment is still the best bet to enable the country to cushion the impact of the financial meltdown now gripping global economies.

In a press statement, the Federation said there is a need for the DOLE to quickly carry out such bold initiatives as waiving the visa requirements for registered or accredited employers who will come to the Philippines to conduct job interviews; simplifying the procedures for processing of OFW documents; facilitating the registration and verification of foreign employers and fast-tracking the authentication of their documents; and completely doing away with bureaucratic delay.

"This package of measures should be in addition to those intervention programs that DOLE Secretary Marianito Roque had announced last week, such as the creation of quick-response teams to assist workers, re-training, and re-employment facilitation," said Eduardo T. Mahiya, Federation president.

The proposals are the Federation's response to the DOLE's move of conducting a series of inter-agency consultations on how to expedite OFW deployment and other related matters.

Last week, the Federation proposed a mandatory repatriation and liability insurance for OFWs in the light of increasing public fears that the global financial crisis will adversely affect overseas Filipino workers.

The insurance, which will not cost the OFW or the government a centavo, will answer the cost of repatriation of OFWs in distress and the loss of their salaries and employment benefits as a result of illegal terminations or mass layoffs.

The mandatory repatriation and liability insurance is over and above existing OFW welfare and protection measures, such as the escrow deposit and performance bond that OESPs are required to put up.

"With the insurance, we are ensuring that our OFWs, whose income remittances are the lifeline of the economy, are amply protected," said Mahiya.

Loreto Soriano, the Federation's executive director, said on the other hand that there is a need for the POEA to closely monitor the hiring pattern and behavior of the country's top-ten OFW destinations so that the government can anticipate any development that could be detrimental to our OFWs, such as decrease in salaries and other employment benefits; decreased working hours, contract termination, and the like.

He warned that while the financial crisis' impact to overseas employment will not be fully felt until about in the next six months, those semi-skilled workers, domestic helpers, and construction and manufacturing workers could be the hardest hit.

He explained that it will also be an anti-illegal recruitment tool because requiring departing OFWs to present proof of liability insurance coverage would minimize the number of undocumented and illegally-recruited workers. OFWs who could not present such proof, he said, will be deemed illegally-recruited and their recruiters shall be prosecuted.

He also said that with the insurance, sufficient funds for OFW claims will be assured, unlike at present when some OESPs, due sometimes to large and multiple claims, becomes bankrupt and, hence, cannot afford to bear the burden of paying.

Soriano further said the insurance will contribute to the emotional security of OFWs and their families because they are assured that claims that would arise from their employment are covered.

"We believe this is the most appropriate, practical and doable measure that can be done quickly in response to the uncertainties in the overseas employment sector," he said.

Mahiya said that because of the gravity of the global financial situation, there is a need to immediately act to calm the fears of OFWs around the world about job security and other concerns and urged the government to mandate the insurance through a presidential issuance.

"We respectfully ask President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to favorably consider this matter," he said.

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