Are OFWs’ right to travel being violated by the Philippine Government?

The Philippine economy will collapse without the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). Remittances from the OFWs contributed significantly to the 7.3% growth in the economy in 2010. The spending fuelled by the billions of dollars they send back home is a factor that is likely helping the country avoid a Greece-like economic failure.

Even without drastic economic reforms, the Philippines managed to survive the global financial crisis in 2008, a downturn that crippled other progressive countries in Europe. Much of this resilience can be credited to the money the OFWs pump back into the Philippine economy. Knowing that fact, shouldn’t the Philippine government do everything it can to make it easier for Filipinos who find work abroad to travel without any hassle?

Apparently, the Philippine government found another way of milking some more cash out of our hapless and desperate workers who simply want to make a decent living overseas. Since March 2011, OFWs leaving the country have been required to pass through the labor assistance centers of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to “validate” their exit clearance.

What does this mean? Not only do OFWs have to show some legitimate paperwork, they also have to pay a fee before they can jump on the plane. A concerned OFW was kind enough to send me a list of the documents and fees a departing OFW is required to produce before the POEA can give them a go signal to leave:

DOCUMENTS:

– Proof of existing employment (such as valid employment contract, employment
certificate, valid company ID, pay slips)
– Passport valid for at least 6 months from the time of departure
– Valid visa / re-entry permit / work permit or equivalent document

FEES

– POEA processing fee – PHp 100.00
– OWWA membership fee – US$25 or its peso equivalent (per contract basis)
– PhilHealth – PHp 900.00 (good for 1 year coverage)
– Pag-Ibig membership – PHp 100 (minimum)

Is it right for this department to be hassling our OFWs for paperwork at all? In an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, former ambassador to Greece and Cyprus, Rigoberto Tiglao wrote that he just realized that this directive could actually be unconstitutional. He emphasized that the freedom to leave the country is a fundamental human right as explained to him by an immigration official:

Section 6 in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights says: “Neither shall the right to travel be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by law.”

The right is also emphasized by United Nations conventions that we have ratified. The UN Convention on Human Rights of 1948 states: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own.” The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 says: “Everyone shall be free to leave the country, including his own.”

It was said that in March 2008, the POEA under another administrator, already scrapped the required validation of OFW documents “following a directive from then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to streamline processes in OFW deployment.” Good on the former President for using her head and for understanding what the OFWs have to go through.

But why did the new boss of the POEA revive this procedure? POEA Administrator Carlos Cao Jr. said in a statement earlier this year that he restored the validation of OFW documents “to ensure that only workers who are properly documented or have passed through the legal processes are allowed to leave the country.” To quote:

“With the validation system in place, POEA is able to check on workers who are carrying tampered or fake travel documents secured through illegal means”.

It was also recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani who urged the POEA to bring back the overseas employment certificates (OEC) validation “as the system proved effective against illegal deployment and human trafficking.”

However, there is no data of any kind showing how much illegal deployment or human trafficking the department has stopped when the clearance was still in place up until it was scrapped in 2008. In short, there is little justification for bringing this validation system back.

In fact, Ambassador Tiglao was even “bothered” by reports that there were Filipinas who were being “unwittingly lured” into prostitution in Cyprus. He alleged that these Filipinas somehow manage to go out of the country even without proper documentation with the help of, in his own words, corrupt immigration officials. So therefore, requiring the OFWs to get an OEC before leaving to prevent illegal deployment is futile. No one can stop a legitimate OFW from doing a part time work as a prostitute anyway.

With an estimate of 3500 OFWs who go through immigration every day, getting an exit clearance can be an administrative nightmare at the international airport. You could say that the OFWs can get this clearance before the date of their flight because the OEC is valid until the date of their flight. But do you actually know anyone who is organized enough to do this? I don’t think so.

And here is another catch: “re-validation of the clearance shall be allowed only for a flight that has been cancelled or re-scheduled for valid reasons”. Say what? Does that mean, after going through the inconvenience of a delayed flight, you have to go through the POEA again?!? Who the heck comes up with these kinds of procedures? You can be forgiven for thinking that only someone who has nothing better to do could come up with red tape that is as daunting as this.

Annoyed Migrante-ME regional coordinator, John Leonard Monterona stated that “this situation warrants genuine OFW community representation in the POEA board and other decision-making bodies of concerned government agencies.” He stressed that the POEA board does not openly communicate with the OFW representatives in terms of policy-formulation to help ease their deplorable plight.

The POEA is not even clear on where the funds for the exit fees go. It’s not like it will help assist the OFWs who are in need overseas. Some of those who had to leave Libya earlier this year due to the uprising were forced to evacuate without any help from the Philippine government.

Even if you are not good in math, your calculator will show you that P100.00 multiplied by 3500 OFWs everyday is P350,000.00 daily that will go to…I really think that this exit fee should be scrapped.

And here are the real figures: according to POEA, the number of Filipino workers deployed overseas rose by 3.4 percent to 1.47 million last year from 1.42 million in 2009. Despite what is happening around the world, it seems that the demand for Filipino workers is steady.

Even remittances from OFWs grew 6.9 percent in May and is said to have been “its fastest monthly increase since January” and the major sources of remittances are: the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Japan, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Italy, and Germany.

A business report in June stated that “Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Gov. Amando Tetangco Jr. said in a statement the money transfers last May reached $1.688 billion or $110 million more than the $1.578 billion in the same month last year.”

The figures alone should tell the Philippine government that it should be treating the OFWs as their number one asset and not their liability. And the OFWs should organized themselves more because they now have the leverage to demand for more respect from the Philippine government.

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Post Author: Ilda

In life, things are not always what they seem.

41 thoughts on “Are OFWs’ right to travel being violated by the Philippine Government?

    Jason Quizon

    (July 16, 2011 - 2:59 am)

    Thank you very much Ilda, this is an article that clearly reflects the present rubbish system. Again thank you very much!

      Ilda

      (July 16, 2011 - 7:06 pm)

      You are welcome Jason. Glad to be of help. 🙂

        Jason Quizon

        (July 17, 2011 - 12:36 am)

        HHHHMMMM since on the streak na rin ang COA,pwede kaya nila silipin mga libro ng POEA, OWWA at DFA??? I smell something fishy, biruin mo nung mag ka gulo sa Libya, wala daw silang pera…

    Hyden Toro

    (July 16, 2011 - 3:08 am)

    The OFW Slaves/ Drug Mules are the Cash Cows of the Philippine goverment. They can extort, as much money, in the form of fees, on them. Before they can leave the country…No choice for these people…they have to leave for overseas jobs, or starve…the Aquino administration has no solutions to these problems…they are busy investigating people…and giving a show known as: political circus…this is what they are good at…while our country rot…it is now rotten to the core…

      Ilda

      (July 16, 2011 - 7:14 pm)

      It would be hard to imagine how PNoy can even relate to the issues of the OFWs. Although since he does not like travelling himself, he should be more sensitive to the plight of the frequent travellers.

      The OFW representatives need to demand that PNoy look into this as soon as possible.

    Joe America

    (July 16, 2011 - 6:23 am)

    Yes indeedy. While you are at it, get them to scrap the required course of study for Filipina wives of foreigners who wish to visit other countries. They could put their lame information in a brochure or online for optional reading, rather than mandate at trip to Manila or Cebu to engage in hours of paperwork and the half-a**ed class. They treat their own citizens as children rather than adults. Oh . . . you think the 30 million pesos I calculate they get may be in play here?

    observer

    (July 16, 2011 - 1:28 pm)

    I strongly agree with your point of view Ilda. They are also asking some of the OFW to have their employers sign a legal document in addition to what had been agreed by the OFW and employer beforehand. This demands in the list can sometimes put off employers into hiring OFW. And also the service they give in POEA is crap. You have to spend 2 whole days to get a receipt, POEA employees are not professional and don’t give a crap with the precious time to those applying for it, making them wait 30 mins for a seminar to start. Not only that, they want to make OFW’s put up with this annoying procedure over and over again if they just plan on spending vacation in the Philippines. In Summary, POEA puts in procedure to suck in more cash from OFW, while their services there SUCK BIG TIME, their employees are unprofessional and rude. They start very late and end very early.

      Ilda

      (July 16, 2011 - 7:09 pm)

      @Observer

      I hope the OFWs can make more noise about this issue. I don’t think it is right that the government is not even putting some professionalism in the procedures involving OFWs. It’s bad enough that you guys are thousands of miles away from your loved ones, it’s worse when you have to go through hell when you come home and visit.

    Joe America

    (July 17, 2011 - 9:27 am)

    I was reflecting on the underlying reason for the program and the fees. If the purpose is to help OFW’s, they are doing a less than stellar job. If it is to gain fees, or what I call assessing fee taxes, they are succeeding, but by preying on people in need. The premise is the same as for the international traveler airport fees, which are 10 times the domestic fees, or the ridiculous program I mention above. They spot someone who is vulnerable, has no choice, and presumably has or will have money . . . and they go after it.

    Versus, for instance, levying rational property taxes. They don’t do this because the property owners are not vulnerable; they are the neighbor, or the colleague.

    It is pretty disgusting, actually, to hit on the vulnerable and let the rich slide by.

      Ilda

      (July 17, 2011 - 2:17 pm)

      It is pretty disgusting, actually, to hit on the vulnerable and let the rich slide by

      That is the way the cookie crumbs in this part of the world.

    Trosp

    (July 17, 2011 - 9:39 am)

    Look at this situation.I was an OFW based in Singapore. I was recruited directly by an employer and work there without securing all those paper works. To my mind, I just go to Singapore and work since going to Singapore does not need visa in any form.

    After a year of working there, I returned home for a month’s vacation and when I was returning to Singapore, I could not leave anymore without securing these POEA paper works. I can’t leave even as a tourist because my passport was with an employment pass stamp from Singapore immigration.

    From what I’ve heard, you can’t leave as an OFW if there is no local employment agency handling your employment contract. And you must pay them an equivalent of a month’s salary from your employer.

    Hindi lang iyan, there is this crazy Philippine Air Line’s policy that once you landed in the Philippines and have to leave again using their return ticket, you must RECONFIRM YOUR SCHEDULED DEPARTURE. Otherwise, your scheduled departure is invalid.

    Only in the Philippines

      Ilda

      (July 17, 2011 - 2:19 pm)

      This is what my OFW friend said:

      “Migrant workers of other 3rd world countries like india, sri lanka, bangladesh, pakistan, nepal, etc. are also being exploited by their governments. in nepal, workers would pay placement fees equivalent to one year salary!

      this is what i call legalized corruption… exploiting our migrant workers.”

      The OFW doesn’t have to put up with this though. We are more educated than most of the workers from other 3rd world countries.

    kabayongtao

    (July 17, 2011 - 2:07 pm)

    This is a sign of a redundant process which could’ve been easily solved by implementing a systematic design involving networking based on modern technology.

    If only POEA and airports establish a central system which they can communicate remotely, I wouldn’t see any reason why they would let OFW Passenger do the manual paperworks.

      Ilda

      (July 17, 2011 - 2:21 pm)

      I don’t really believe they need to see all the paperwork listed above. What’s it to them how much the worker is earning? That is private information.

    Sunshine

    (July 18, 2011 - 3:05 am)

    R u sure the figures are correct? Last time I left Ph for Aussie, I paid almost 8K in POEA for all fees na yan, and I was really really pissed that before I can even earn a single Aussie dollar I have to pay the Ph government for what?!$#@!!! It wasn’t the gov’t that helped me get the job, I was hired directly because my friends put a good word for my skills, kaya hindi na ko bumalik ng Pinas sa sobrang inis ko sa government. It’s only in the Philippines that even if you have valid passport, paid for your round trip tickets, that you get stopped to travel as a tourist just because the immigration officials said so. Ay nakakasama ng loob, that was in 2006 nagngingitngit pa din ako whenever I recall it

      Ilda

      (July 18, 2011 - 9:28 am)

      Well, the fees have probably changed since the last time you had to pay them.

    […] to a people whose immediate concerns do not go beyond scraping together their next meal or slogging through the ridiculous red tape that comes between them and their plane out of the country to overseas employment […]

    john.b

    (July 21, 2011 - 10:21 am)

    Processing FEE po ay $100 (DOLLARS) not pesos. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/r3auN9

    Processing Fee – US$100.00 or peso equivalent

      Ilda

      (July 21, 2011 - 12:05 pm)

      @john.b

      Thanks for the link but since I am not an OFW, I don’t know which link is more accurate. There is also a link in my article, which will lead you to the FAQ section of the POEA. It actually says the amount in pesos. That link was provided to me by an FB friend who is an OFW. If yours is more accurate, then the situation for OFWs is even worse. It makes a lot of difference.

    mina_e

    (July 27, 2011 - 7:04 am)

    Well, not only we have to queue up to pay these fees sometimes we get overcharged. what are those computers for if they don’t see our records of what is to be paid and not? kawawa naman yung mga taong di makaag-complain out of takot na baka bulyawan ng GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE na tax ng FILIPINO populace ang nagbabayad.

    freecallsphilippines

    (August 23, 2011 - 7:11 pm)

    hope that these problems are given attention – definitely the OFW DESERVE fair treatment.

    Red

    (August 27, 2011 - 5:59 am)

    You could call it legal human traffic…

    callphilippines

    (September 5, 2011 - 3:00 pm)

    i wonder what government reasons are for asking for these show of documentation? obviously its a monitoring system of sorts. Maybe against illegal trafficking? it would be interesting to know what their story is…

    jai zeille

    (October 3, 2011 - 11:41 pm)

    hello po! posible ba na ma hold ako sa airport kung walang oec?
    direct hired po ako at may plane ticket na ako at iba pang documents,
    may mga requirements na rin ako to get oec except medical certificate..
    wala na po akong time magpamedical at pwede bang sa airport nalang ako kukuha ng oec sa Labor Assistance Center, dahil alanganin na talaga ung time eh!? meron akong Authenticated contract from DK, visa, pdos cert at plane ticket.. bibigyan ba ako ng oec s poea kahit wala akong medical cert?at meron naman akong mga valid documents at pang bayad..
    Or pwede bang magbabayad nalang ako ng terminal fees at tax?
    .help pls………..thanks

      shing

      (February 16, 2012 - 4:58 pm)

      Hi Ms. jai zeille, I would just like to ask if the POEA issued you an oec? because they told me that direct hiring is not allowed although it is in their rules and regulations that name hires are allowed but I don’t see their point why direct hiring is not allowed. That they need the employer to be accredited. I am not even sure if I have the working visa now and that i can be issued an oec because I am too is a hired directly. I just want to know from someone who is also similarly situated. I will appreciate your advice and I will wait for it here thank you so much..and also to anyone who have read our concerns, please enlightened us. This is my first time to work abroad if given the chance to have this oec. And I just can’t let go of this ooportunity easily as we don’t have good jobs here in the philippines. Please help us..thank you

    cool ass

    (November 12, 2011 - 3:38 am)

    dun sa mga fees na babayaran, wala naman tayong tutol dun eh, basically, sa maganda naman po napupunta yun..(i hope)
    pero baket naman kailangan pang magpakita ng valid contract, ID or any proof of employment?…hindi pa ba sapat na may re entry visa kami na naka tatak sa passport?…
    7 years na po ako sa Saudi Arabia, at 3 times na akong nakapag bakasyon, pero wala pong hassle ang pagbabalik ko dito, last time na umalis ako ng Pilipinas, November 10, 2010…kung totoong kailangan ng certificate of employment at company ID para makabalik ako ulit dito mula sa aking pagbabakasyon, malamang hindi na ako makakabalik kasi hindi naman pinapayagan ng company na dalhin namin ang ID sa pag uwi namin ng pinas, at hindi din sila nagbibigay ng certificate of employment kapag may re-entry kami…BUWISIT naman talaga ang Gobyerno natin oh, wlaang ginawa kundi pahirapan yung mga taong bumubuhay sa bansa natin…BUWISIT!…

    Rami

    (December 25, 2011 - 10:23 pm)

    My wife paid 32000 PHP to variouse airport officals to secure her travel to see me on tourist Visa. She had a tourist visa, cash, bank statment, invitation letter, return ticket.

    Exteremly bad

    MICHELLE BRUA

    (February 14, 2012 - 1:12 pm)

    I feel enlightened upon reading this article only that I am not yet an OFW. I was due for a final interview with my prospective employer but the airport immigration denied my travel for the reason as listed in their guidelines that “those filipino workers who are due for final interview/qualifying exam shall secure from POEA a SPECIAL EXIT CLEARANCE. for the first time that my travel has been denied I went to POEA but when I was there and was able to talk to the people at ERB or employment regulatory branc, all they told me and take note all of it are just verbal, that my case does not fall on the guidelines so what I will do is to convince the Immigration officers about what they told me and that I will have a chance to go out this country. So since they will not issue me any answer or denial to my request for the SPECIAL EXIT CLEARANCE I have booked another flight but for the second time, the Immigration at the airport won’t allow me to travel for the same reason. So I went again to POEA arm with a letter so that whatever denial they may have they will reply to me in writing so that so i have a way to make an appeal as this is my chance to work abroad and that I can earn a decent living. My prospective employer can not wait for me forever but because I have explained what happened here they are so lenient enough to let me process all the necessary permits. The airport immigration are implementing the guidelines but it seems that those government agencies as POEA is not ready on their role for the guidelines. Up to now POEA has not given me yet any answers in writing as their response. I feel right now that these people have snatched away my dreams. It is even humiliating that we are looking for a job abroad because we could not get any decent jobs here and yet these people wont allow us to go out and have a chance to work outside. It is as if we are at their mercy everytime we go out from the country.

    One thing more, POEA told me that and pressed me that when I will be in the place where my final interview is, I will not come back because I will work there already. That idea is so absurd as if I can go on TNT in the middle east…. if I will work there then I have the necessary papers with me and that there is embassy to the philippines in that place where I can submit myself to them. How I wish that those filipino workers who are similarly situated as mine, please tell me what to do as this is my chance to earn a good paying job and that my profession here is also my profession there. I am completely at a lost now. thank you kababayan.

      Ilda

      (February 14, 2012 - 9:21 pm)

      Thanks for your comment. Good luck with your job!

      Bella

      (July 13, 2012 - 3:11 pm)

      Holy cow..just experience the same thing as yours..two times to be off loaded because of this Special Exit Clearance.I’ve rebooked my flight to Clark and decided to shortened the 20 days to 6days just not to question my longer days stay as tourist and even booked for my hotel accommodation as there looking for that the last time but to no avail, they’re still firm to insist what was recommended at the first assessment. Nakakawala ng poise.6 days for Special Exit Clearance..so absurd.

      I also fall at this Clause IV. Special Cases.
      see this. http://immigration.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1252&Itemid=103

      I wonder after reading this GUIDELINES does we really need to comply all these aside from being a tourist traveler?

      II. OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS
      III. IMMIGRANT OR PERMANENT RESIDENT VISA
      IV. SPECIAL CASES

      When i was accessed by the Immigration officer i always insisted i am there as a tourist, i was equipped with the invitation from my friend, but they said i fall for Special Cases, they haven’t let me read the upper part for the Tourist Clause which was my purpose..
      I really wonder why they don’t concentrate on your purpose presented and just access and concentrate there, why still they’re looking for other requirement not included for my purpose as tourist.

      Nakaka asar.
      Is there a way to clear this up. I asked the officer is that all, after you waste money and time. They just advise me to go back to NAIA immigration to clear up..what if they still insist. Is there a way to clear this..

      Im still going to Singapore after 3-4months to cool off the issue. I’m already going there with my husband after our wedding. We will be present as tourist and going for honeymoon vacation..Just wondering if they’ll see my name in the previous record will they still insist for this SPECIAL EXIT CLEARANCE.??

    Jee

    (April 18, 2012 - 1:27 am)

    hi! i just attended an orientation in one agency and they discussed this so-called processing or placement fee and other charges. going to work as a teacher in the usa would cost an applicant no less than $5000. every step of the way you’ll have to pay. is this how it should really be? what is the governing law regarding these processing and documentations fees/placement fees? simple logic – the reason why one is eager to work abroad is there is not enough compensation here to meet the basic needs or should i say a decent living for a standard family, wala ngang napapala dito sa bansa natin – ang laki ng tax ang liit ng sahod – ano ba yan? kindly post another write-up focusing on these placement fees to enlighten other applicants or those who are planning to work abroad. most of the time, buwis-buhay talaga, just to meet the required placement fee para lang makapag-abroad for higher compensation. thanks a lot.

    […] It is disappointing that the current government is neglecting its Number One revenue earner. The OFW contribution in terms of remittances is said to have reached $1.7 billion for April alone. Like what I said in my previous article, the Philippine economy will collapse without the OFWs. […]

    Ibo

    (November 19, 2012 - 10:34 pm)

    They don’t know how to handle direct hires (Multinational companies and doesn’t go thru agencies). They don’t understand the documents presented by multinational companies but only agencies. When I went to claim my clearance at POEA, lady was ahead of me. She’s a chemical engineer bound for Switzerland– She’d be there for 1 yr training before the company decides to which country she’d be deployed . And they were asking her for work contract and agency related things when she has a training authorization and training contract that indicates her salary, housing etc. She has already a ticket and a letter from the company and a training contract. The guy said “We don’t allow trainees eh!” WTH was that? Doesn’t she have the right to pursue a career outside the country. She was dismissed and told to comeback if she gets the documents they were asking and her flight is due in 3 days. Crazy system.

      Ilda

      (November 19, 2012 - 10:54 pm)

      That just sucks! They are so black and white. They should be more flexible because they are dealing with different countries with different rules.

    james

    (April 29, 2014 - 5:29 pm)

    syempre intsik presidente binoto nyo..gusto nyan aalilain nila mga pobreng pinoy sa bayan para sila makikinabang sa talento ant pawis ng pinoy

    ian

    (June 11, 2014 - 9:00 pm)

    My wife is caught in the same trap, I am now shocked that such a system exists this is more akin to a communist country than a democracy.

    In her case they actually told her to go and make an affidavit and then when she went back they told her that she cannot get an exit pass because she was hired by a non local employment agency.

    Since when does a government have the right to control the movement of people?

    Rochelle

    (June 28, 2014 - 9:09 pm)

    I agree..This is a very fucked up system.. I can’t believe I need to pay for another flight and paid poea, Phil health etc for around 5k pesos excluding my flight any website to complain as I will definitely complain with what happened to me recently.. Need your advise to complain my situation recently with regards to poea, immigration etc..

    James

    (July 10, 2014 - 12:13 am)

    I have an entry permit to canada stamped in my passport. I want to go out without submiting documents to poea. Is it possible if i can go via hongkong or singapore then straight to vancouver. Thnx

    mila Garces

    (September 15, 2014 - 6:51 pm)

    Tama kayong lahat ng commento….sobrang pamemera ng gobierno sa mga OFW…dami daming documents needed for exit when the bottomline is only to get money from poor OFW’s…..I pray that we can have a God fearing leader to run our country, SINO KAYA? parang WALA.

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