In a groundbreaking move to ease the burden on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and streamline their documentation process, the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) recently announced that the issuance of Overseas Employment Certificates (OEC) for rehires, or “balik-manggagawa,” is now completely free of charge. This significant change was implemented as of July 29, 2023, with the DMW also scrapping the mandatory issuance of official receipts for the certificates.
The OEC has long been a crucial requirement for all departing OFWs, serving as an essential exit clearance. However, the previous onsite processing, which involved a P100 charge and took up to 60 days, proved to be a considerable inconvenience for the workers. Moreover, the certificate also acted as an exemption from payment of travel tax and airport terminal fees, making it a vital document for many OFWs.
The decision to waive the fees for the OEC was a direct outcome of the DMW’s innovative initiative – the “OFW Pass” application. This digital platform promises to provide OFWs with easy access to a secure version of the OEC, completely transforming the cumbersome application process. With the introduction of the app, OFWs can now bid farewell to long waiting times and costly fees.
Secretary Susan Ople of the Department of Migrant Workers expressed her enthusiasm for the new development, emphasizing the positive impact it would have on the lives of OFWs. She revealed that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself had been resolute in his desire to waive the P100 fee for the certificate.
“Our fellow Filipinos, especially professionals who return home sometimes twice a month, have had to bear the burden of obtaining the OEC repeatedly,” Secretary Ople said. “To address this issue, we have now tied the OEC’s validity to the worker’s contract duration. As long as they do not change employers or relocate to another country during that period, the contract remains unchanged in our database.”
The DMW’s OFW Pass is currently undergoing a pilot test phase in ten countries: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Oman, Japan, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. Once the pilot phase concludes successfully, the app will be rolled out globally, aiming to serve OFWs worldwide with a seamless and user-friendly experience.
The move to make the OEC free of charge through the app has not been without financial implications. By waiving the charge for land-based OFWs, the government stands to lose an estimated P250 million in revenue. However, it is evident that the benefits of alleviating the burdens on OFWs far outweigh the financial costs.
In addition to the convenience of obtaining the OEC at no cost, the digital transformation offers several other advantages. The app’s secure and centralized database will simplify the verification process for immigration authorities and employers, reducing the likelihood of fraudulent documents and expediting clearance procedures. Moreover, the electronic nature of the OFW Pass means that physical documents can be consigned to the past, promoting a more eco-friendly approach to government processes.
The DMW’s commitment to supporting OFWs and enhancing their experience is commendable. By embracing technology and recognizing the need for streamlined documentation, the government is taking significant strides towards empowering OFWs and acknowledging their vital contributions to the country’s economy.
In conclusion, the DMW’s introduction of the free and hassle-free OEC app marks a new era in the lives of Overseas Filipino Workers. This innovative step not only relieves OFWs from financial burdens but also simplifies the process of securing essential documents before their departure. As the pilot phase continues, the app’s full deployment worldwide is eagerly awaited, promising a brighter and more efficient future for OFWs across the globe.
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