Mandatory OFW insurance recommended for agency hires only

LABOR OFFICIALS told Congress that mandatory insurance for overseas workers should only apply to agency hires for now, citing the need to clear up some legal and budgetary hurdles before such a policy is legislated.

At a House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs hearing Thursday, the administrator of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Bernard P. Olalia, said amendments are needed to current law before insurance payments can be required of some classes of overseas workers like direct hires and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) employed under government-to-government agreements.

“We recognize that only agency hires shall be subjected to the mandatory insurance coverage,” he said in the hearing, adding that labor officials have long sought the amendment of Republic Act 10022, or the Migrant Workers Act of 1995, in order to expand the types of OFW subject to compulsory welfare insurance.

Legislators are considering seven bills dealing with OFW insurance coverage.

Deputy Speaker Rufus B. Rodriguez said at the hearing that his House Bill (HB) 3811 was meant to address overseas workers experiencing abuse.

Benefits contemplated by HB 3811 include an accidental-death payout of up to $15,000; a natural death benefit of up to $10,000; a permanent disability benefit of up to $7,500; and repatriation and burial insurance of up to $15,000. The scheme proposed in the bill also provides for subsistence allowances and payment for wage claims.

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac said at the hearing that while he supports the bill, more study is needed for some cases, such as when OFW deaths are ruled to be suicides.

“The employer or the authorities might easily pass off a domestic worker’s death as a suicide without proper investigation,” he said, noting that suicides invalidate many life insurance claims.

In terms of funding, Mr. Cacdac said some of the bills also place responsibility for premiums on OWWA, which it might not be able to afford on its annual income of over P2 billion annually.

“If we spend our money on just insurance premiums, the funds will be gone immediately and we will lose money for social benefit programs,” he said. — Gillian M. Cortez

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