MANILA, Philippines – The lack of implementing guidelines on the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) newly launched Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) identification card has left many OFWs confused regarding its benefits and functions.
The OFW ID, also called iDOLE, is supposedly one of the Duterte administration's key programs for OFWs and was launched on July 12, 2017. According to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III in a briefing in Malacañang on July 4, the ID will be given to “all bonafide OFWs at no cost” and will serve as their overseas employment certificate (OEC).
“This will serve as your OEC…so they don’t have to go to the POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration) every time they go and come back. All they have to do is to show their ID,” he said said.
Bello also said they are looking into adopting a system that would let IDOLE serve as the designated passport of OFWs.
“How could it be the ‘best gift’ when even the DOLE is clueless on its relevance? There is as yet no implementing guidelines on how it is supposed to function,” Migrante International’s spokesperson Arman Hernando said in a statement. Bello in a media briefing said that the IDOLE is "the best gift of our President to OFWs.”
The militant group also claimed that the IDOLE is not really free and does not really replace the OEC.
"It will not even benefit all OFWs and only new hires. Worse, the DOLE claims that it will be free of charge, to replace the useless scrap of paper that is the OEC (overseas employment certificate), but it turns out to be seven times more expensive at Php701. Employers are expected to pay for the iDOLE but since when has this stopped them from passing on the burden to recruitment agencies and, consequently, to OFWs?”
Hernando said that the government would do well to cease from its “big talk” and instead genuinely address issues that would stop forced migration and put an end to the policy of labor export. “Thanks, but no thanks, President Duterte. Hindi po ito regalo kundi dagdag-perwisyo para sa mga OFW,” he said. (This is not a gift but a new problem for OFWs.)
Saudi-based Filipino community leader John Leonard Monterona, in a press release, asked the DOLE to clarify if the ID is indeed free. Monterona said that he tried to avail his own ID through the iDOLE website, only to find out that he was being charged with Php501 for the card and another Php200 for the delivery. The website, as of writing, is now inaccessible.
“Many OFWs welcome the iDOLE/OFW ID card. But upon knowing now that there will be fees on getting it, then we would probably chose not to avail the iDOLE OFW ID,” Monterona he said in a statement.
Dubai-based OFW Jun Cargullo echoes Monterona’s statement, saying that the announcement of the ID before guidelines were released only caused confusion among OFWs. For him, the government should stop insisting that the ID is free.
"Personally, hindi naman issue ang 700pesos (700 pesos is not an issue). The thing is they keep on saying that it’s free, then say that the employers will shoulder it. Is that still free?” he said in an interview with Rappler.
Cargullo also said that there’s no way the Philippine government can make employers of OFWs to pay for the fee. “This ID is only relevant to domestic transactions and has nothing to do with our employment abroad. This is not like the Emirates ID or UAE health card.”
“At the end of the day, it is us, OFWs, who will have to pay for the card,” Cargullo said.
No distribution yet
The Philippines Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) clarified however, that while the IDs have been launched, they will not distribute them to OFWs yet until the implementing guidelines have been formalized.
The POEA said the guidelines on the implementation of the program are still being finalized. An announcement will again be issued to inform OFWs of the proper procedure of application.
In an interview with TV5 on July 17, Bello said they will release the guidelines with one or two weeks and the IDs might be ready by distribution by “the first or second week of August.”
Bello also said that the IDs will be free for the OFW, with either the recruiting agency or the employer paying for it. "Depende na yan sa pag uusap ng technical people maaring ung employer maaring ung recruitment agency basta inportante walang babayaran ang OFW.” (It depends with the talks between the technical people but it could be that the employer or recruitment agency will pay - what’s important is that the OFW won’t pay for anything.)
Labor Undersecretary Dominador Say earlier said that the DOLE would set up an online system where OFWs can apply for iDOLE and the employers will shoulder the cost of the delivery and payments. – Rappler.com
Don Kevin Hapal is Rappler’s Head of Data and Innovation. He started at Rappler as a digital communications specialist, then went on to lead Rappler’s Balikbayan section for overseas Filipinos. He was introduced to data journalism while writing and researching about social media, disinformation, and propaganda.