OWWA launches OFW e-card for easier access to gov't benefits

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) launched on Tuesday, November 6, its overseas Filipino worker (OFW) e-card, a membership card that provides easier access to government benefits.

The e-card can be used for OWWA services such as welfare programs, scholarship applications, training programs, and other social benefits.

To apply for such programs, OFWs only have to show their card or the digital copy of the card, which has a QR code that can be easily scanned to verify authenticity.

The e-card reduces the number of documents needed when applying for services.

OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac also said that the e-card functions both as a membership card and as a valid ID that can be used when dealing with various government agencies involved in overseas deployment.

"The card will benefit OFWs in many ways possible. It's not just a proof of membership, but it also provides easier access to programs. It also functions as a valid ID for DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs), POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration), OWWA, Bureau of Immigration, and Philippine Overseas Labor Offices," Cacdac said on Tuesday.

How to apply

OFWs who are active members of OWWA and are under the Balik Manggagawa program with valid overseas employment certificates (OECs) may apply for the e-card.

The Balik Manggagawa program covers OFWs who frequently return to the country for short vacations.

Application can be done online by visiting the OWWA website.

APPLICATION. The application is done online by entering personal details, including passport and overseas employment certificate numbers. OWWA website screenshot

APPLICATION. The application is done online by entering personal details, including passport and overseas employment certificate numbers.

OWWA website screenshot

The e-card is available for free and may be claimed upon return to the Philippines at any OWWA regional office nationwide.

It may also be claimed by a family member, provided that they bring an authorization letter and a copy of the OFW's passport identification page.

An estimated 250,000 Balik Manggagawa workers are expected to benefit from the first rollout of e-cards. At the launch, OWWA gave out the cards to 31 OFWs.

'Upgrade' from old OFW ID

Danilo Castroverde, 53, is among the 31 OFWs who applied for the first rollout of the e-cards. He has been an OFW in Saudi Arabia for 13 years.

"Magagamit daw ito na ID. Halimbawa, mawala 'yung passport, puwede ko raw gamitin, tsaka mga benefits ng OWWA. Mag-a-apply ako sa mga livelihood program, 'yung sa mga bata, educational program," Castroverde said.

(I'll be able to use this as an ID. For example, if my passport gets lost, I can use this, as well as for OWWA benefits. I'll apply for the livelihood programs, and for my children, educational programs.)

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the e-card is an upgrade from the previously issued OFW ID.

"This will serve as their OEC. You cannot be deployed without that certificate. Now, you have this," Bello said in a mix of English and Filipino.

"In a way, we rebranded the ID because we lacked data then. This one is a collaboration between DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment), OWWA, POEA, and DFA, including Bureau of Immigration. We were able to complete the data," he added.

With the e-card, the OFW shared information database with other government agencies may soon be realized.

Help desks across the regional offices were set up specifically for questions about the e-card. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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