Coming Soon:No worker can leave for abroad without paying Php 600 to Pag-IBIG

I believe that many overseas Filipino workers do dream of owning their own houses. I do not fault Pag-IBIG Fund for wanting to market its programs to a growing base of over nine million workers overseas. I am glad that a lot of overseas and local workers have enrolled in this housing program out of their desire to own a house someday. However, it seems to me absolutely unfair and arbitrary to use “welfare” and “shelter” as twin excuses for a law to compel our modern-day heroes to be part of the Pag-IBIG Fund. Because of RA No. 9679 or the Home Development Mutual Fund Law (Pag-IBIG Law), every departing worker shall soon be required to show proof of membership — through submissions of the accredited recruitment agency to the POEA — as a prerequisite to the issuance of his or her Overseas Employment Certificate.

In earlier times, all the legal processes that an OFW has to go through prior to departure were meant to ensure his or her protection onsite, and welfare services to the family left behind. Today, an OFW has to contend with a plethora of fees aside from the usual salary deduction that has taken the place of placement fees. He or she is mandated by law to have PhilHealth coverage, undergo pre-departure orientation seminars (Php 100 fee), medical check-ups, trade tests, and now, a six-month advance contribution to the Pag-IBIG Fund (@Php 100 per month contribution).

I ask: were OFW groups even invited to public hearings about mandatory coverage for OFWs? Right now, under this law, the universal membership coverage covers the following: all employees who are compulsorily covered by the SSS; all employees who are subject to mandatory coverage by the GSIS; uniformed members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and the Philippine National Police, and Filipinos employed by foreign-based employers.

Jaime Fabiana, chief executive order of the Pag-IBIG Fund explained that, “the universal coverage aims to strengthen Pag-IBIG’s membership base and expand the reach of the Fund’s affordable housing and short-term and competitive low-interest loan programs to as many people as possible.”

But what if the OFW already owns a house? What if he or she has other priorities? What if some overseas workers prefer to exercise free will over where their money should be spent? Isn’t this the hallmark of democracy? Or are we a welfare state by imposition and when convenient – only over sectors that government can easily control? Will not such exactions lead more job applicants to look at unprotected but swifter means of departure – despite knowing the dangers attached to such anomalous verbal transactions? And as the cash continues to flow from destinations across the globe, what extraordinary benefits can an overseas Pag-IBIG member and his/her family enjoy? Same as the others? Perhaps an entertainment roadshow sponsored by the Fund from time to time? Do these incoming members even understand how the Fund works?

It is no wonder that most Filipino overseas workers feel that they are more milking cows than modern-day heroes. Can’t the Pag-IBIG Fund be lovable by itself without the forceful application of a law? And why should any worker be asked to pay six months in advance even before leaving and earning a single month’s salary? I find this six-months’ rule such an unjust and perhaps even unlawful imposition; yet, the memorandum circular issued by the POEA provides that a recruitment agency can not process the application of a worker unless he is Pag-IBIG member who had paid the six-month membership in advance. And I thought hostage-taking is ripe only in Somalia. Again, I ask – who truly benefits more from this six months’ scheme? The multi-billion Fund? Or the cash-strapped and indebted OFW?

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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  • Get real! Yes, that’s about all they can do– “many overseas Fil workers do DREAM about owning their own houses” as you’ve stated above.These workers are exploited to the max. By the time they’re done paying for their monthly basic living necessities, they hardly have anything left to remit to their love ones bk in PI. That’s the sad reality of people from third world countries (PI) working and living in other richer countries such as in the Middle East, parts of SE Asia, and in some European countries; forget North America these days. Even their own people are now long term unemployed, around 16m and growing. The only exception in the US is if you can immigrate as a professional nurse, which is now next to impossible because of national security and quota issues. Even top professionals like physicians going to the middle east if they can are treated by the host countries like third class citizens. So going back to your “dream…”, you might do your readers a lot of good if you tell it like it is in your future posts, and trying arouse false hopes. The fast changing world as it is today is very much different from that in the mid twentieth century. Those days rest assured will never be back. What you will see down the road I assure you would be more chaos, widespread, aggravated suffering and
    bloodbath throughout the planet. I’m trying not to be a gloom & doom guy but by the same token I will not sugarcoat anything I’m going say. You and your friends do have a choice and that is, keep hoping; just be prepared not to get too complacent and celebratory. Look me up again if you wish in five to ten years and we shall compare notes, deal? Ciao, baby…

  • alberto c. lee

    This new regulation regarding PAGIBIG contributions is just another way to get treasures from the hard-working OFWs. I say the government should stop milking the OFWs because the OFWs are not going to reap any benefits from it. PAGIBIG has not really done anything great in the past to brag about.

  • I agree, the ofws must be engaged in law and policy making, not only through advocacy groups but themselves-directly and we must help find how this could happen.

    I always said the OFWs and their families are the “silent elephants in the room”. When will they/we collectively flex our muscles to help but demand to be heard.

    PHILHEALTH. Where is justice and just return when an un-married or a single-parent OFW cant even have a dependent to benifits from his/her P900 forced-membership contributions before departure. And how many hundreds of thousands belong to this group. Philhelath law provides that an unmarried member can only include as dependent his/her parents if they are 60 years old and above. How many OFWS are single whose parents are not yet 60 years old. The next question would be how many millions now that was collected from this large number of SINGLE OFW especially that they cannot use the benifits of Philhealth because their health package is superior and mandatory obligations of the foreign employers under host country laws on medical coverage?

    OFW SONS AND DAUGTHERS: How many hundreds of thousands of the who populate the “un-employed graduates of un-employable courses” and continue to fill and populate our schools and universities yet cant find jobs after graduations? OFWS and their families spends 40-60 percent of their salaries in humand capital investment-education. There is a failure of a social contract here.

    The social cost of migration cannot be justified especially as the supposed “resulting economic benifits from remittances (despite contributiong 12-15% of GDP) have not happened. Today, very few family benifited from OFW remittances. They, who owned mega malls, multibillion real estate companies, food change, airlines, universtities and the like.

    Wake up

  • S. Pineda

    Ms. Ople, this was right on the money (no pun intended)! It doesn’t seem much of a democracy when we’re mandated and coerced into paying into something (even though its supposedly good for us). Honestly,I’ve paid the fees but I’ve never used the services because I don’t really need them.

  • S. Pineda

    In response to H Ric Andrada – “These workers are exploited to the max. By the time they’re done paying for their monthly basic living necessities, they hardly have anything left to remit to their love ones bk in PI.”

    As an OFW, the sad reality is that most of the monetary exploitation of OFWs is caused by fellow Filipinos and begins in the Philippines. Ms. Ople is correct in stating that we have to contend with a “plethora of fees” before heading to our job sites. Some placement agencies were charging up to $11,000 back in 2005. My agency charged me $4,000 but would not give me an official receipt with the breakdown of fees. Sounds pretty sketchy, right?