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Mandatory Pag-IBIG coverage for OFWs dropped

The government’s savings and shelter financing agency has withdrawn its original plan to impose mandatory membership for overseas Filipino workers (OFW) as a requirement to process their employment papers, a Hong Kong-based group said Wednesday.

In a statement, the Hong Kong chapter of a women’s rights group said Pag-IBIG chief executive officer Jaime Fabiaña declared that they would not force OFWs to become members of Pag-IBIG, nor will it be made a requirement to process their documents.

Gabriela-HK chairperson Cynthia Abdon-Tellez said Fabiaña announced this in a forum with leaders of OFW organizations on February 1 at the Philippine Consulate General in the Chinese territory.

“It is a victory for the vigilant OFWs resisting schemes of government exaction. While the Arroyo government is bent on squeezing more income from our labor, we shall always be there to fight its schemes every step of the way,” Tellez said.

Republic Act (RA) 9679 or the Home Development Mutual Fund Law, which took effect in January, mandates a monthly P100-contribution from members for such benefits as savings, short-term loans and housing loans. The law’s coverage was expanded to include, among others, Filipino workers employed abroad or here in the country by foreign employers.

Protests from OFWs, however, prompted Fabiaña to say that they would not be forced to become members, Tellez said.

According to Tellez, the plan to make Pag-IBIG a mandatory requirement for OFWs came on the heels of their successful campaign to oppose the forced membership of OFWs to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to enable them to get an overseas employment certificate.

Since November last year, a moratorium has been imposed on the mandatory OWWA collection as a requirement for the certificate, she added.

Tellez also hit the government for being a “consistent extortionist” of OFWs, noting that government exaction intensifies especially at the onset of every national elections.

“Just before the 2007 elections, the POEA Guidelines on hiring Filipino household workers was implemented that carried provisions for training and accreditation requirements which translated to more fees for migrant Filipinos. Now, a few months before the 2010 polls, here comes the mandatory Pag-IBIG membership,” Tellez added.

The group also recalled that in 2004, the government forced the transfer of the OWWA Medicare Fund to Philippine Health Insurance Corp. at the request of then PhilHealth head Francisco Duque.

On February 7, Tellez said her group will stage a rally to call for the scrapping of the provision in RA 9679 on mandatory Pag-IBIG membership. – KBK, GMANews.TV

Courtesy: JERRIE ABELLA, GMANews.TV

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