This general view shows highrise buildings (behind) next to low income houses on stilts (foreground) erected near a river at the mouth of Manila Bay on Wednesday. Agence France-Presse
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
There is no link between the issuance of the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) for vacationing Filipinos to the Philippines and their non-payment of their universal health coverage, otherwise known as Philhealth - at least for now.
Labour Attache in Dubai and the Northern Emirates John Rio Bautista on Tuesday said: “We have not received any instruction. Also, there is no Philhealth officer on-site.”
Bautista’s statement was a repeat of what he had told Rlixa a fortnight back when enquired about the talks within the Filipino Community in the UAE and over social media sites that OECs would be withheld from vacationing OFWs, should they not pay the Philhealth mandatory membership dues.
The talks and worries have been among the results of the earlier announcement of the 1995-created Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PHIC), regarding the collection of the mandatory membership dues from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) beginning June.
The collection of the mandatory membership dues from OFWs as stipulated in the Universal Healthcare Law of 2019 was ordered suspended by outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte in 2020, after thousands all over the world, overly-anxious of the socio-economic debacle caused by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), had demanded among other things, the investigation of anomalies supposed to have been committed in the past several years, by the management and staff of the PHIC, tasked to responsibly and equitably carry out the universal health coverage for all Filipinos.
The mandatory membership retroactively requires all OFWs to pay monthly fees, starting with a 2.75 per cent of the OFWs’ income in 2019, increased to four per cent in 2022 and totaling as high as Php38,400.00 (Dhs2,664.61) a year for those earning Php80,000.00 (Dhs5,551.10) a month and above.
Filipinos in Dubai and the Northern Emirates were interviewed for their insights on the latest decision of the PHIC which has been lambasted several times over again, for new alleged irregularities in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. They shared their opinion as Albay Province Rep. Joey Salceda two weeks back, had asked the incoming Marcos Administration to review and comprehensively overhaul the Universal Healthcare Law of 2019.
Prime Medical Centre general practitioner Dr. Daffodils Guevarra: “The scheme for OFWs must be tailor-made. They must be considerate of the financial capacity of every OFWs. There should be special provisions. If the government decides to make us pay that big amount (of Dhs2,664.43 a year), we should at least get something covered such as an investment return if unclaimed for between 10 and 15 years; we get a certain amount back should we return to the Philippines to cover for our expensive medicines for chronic diseases.”
Rights Corridor managing director Froilan Malit Jr. termed the requirement as an “indirect tax,” a coercion against OFWs who have yet to “financially recover” from COVID-19: “President-Elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. must listen to the voices of the OFWs who supported his election by an overwhelming margin. The Philippine government should explore other alternatives and not totally rely on OFWs to fund our national healthcare system as these OFWs have sufficiently contributed to the nation’s development during both crisis and non-crisis periods.”
Housewife Cristina Espiritu Almakawi: “If un-used for 10 years, can we claim it as lump sum?”
Gulf Scientific Corporation Marketing executive Melliza Hofilena: “The government must see to it at all Filipinos benefit and so the need for various customized options.”
Financial consultant Vicki Formoso: “The intentions of Philhealth is good. OFWs with families back home would benefit. The monthly and yearly contributions are the killer.”
Media Bridge Public Relations manager Olive Ortega: “I just want to make sure that all contributions are put in the right place and will benefit all. There should be a special plan for OFWs.”
Supervisor John Ilaga: “Just make sure that OFWs’ contributions are minimum.”