(MENAFN - Arab News) Filipino rights advocates are calling for the abolition of the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC), which overseas contract workers have to secure every time they travel back home regardless whether they are first-timers or going home on vacation.
The OEC is a requirement under the rules and regulations of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to help ensure that overseas Filipino workers are properly documented and protected.
The OEC, also known as the exit pass, is required at international ports of exit in the Philippines as proof that the holder is a bona fide overseas worker.
The certificate is necessary for any Filipino worker who wants to return back to his country of employment upon visiting the Philippines.
OEC holders are exempted from paying the travel tax and the airport terminal fee.
The concerned government agency, however, will not issue the OEC unless the workers pay the financial requirements imposed by the government, such as the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) membership, PhilHealth and a processing fee.
According to the Filipino workers, the long procedure has become a mere source of revenue for the government.
A previous report disclosed that most of the fund's money is deposited in government financing institutions.
Workers complain that the financial requirements involved in getting the exit pass seizes a large portion of their salaries.
They also believe that the 30-year-old regulation has been creating a hassle at the airport for many overseas workers traveling from different provinces and those merely coming home for their annual vacation.
In some cases, overseas Filipinos travel home several times for work purposes and have to endure the same procedure with every visit.
A new advisory issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) at the Department of Labor and Employment stated that for departing land-based OFWs, the POEA-BI one-stop OEC validation system is being pre-tested in the terminal to simplify departure procedures.
Earlier, any traveling OFWs from Manila airport had to verify their OEC at the POEA office in the airport before proceeding to the immigration counters.
"Those with an OEC/e-receipt issued at the POEA Balik Manggagawa processing center in Mandaluyong City can go straight to the immigration counters after airline check-in," read the advisory.
However, those who receive their receipt in other offices have to go to the same POEA Labor Assistance Counter after airline check-in.
Rashid Aranas Fabricante, a veteran OFW international advocate, said the OEC is senseless, cumbersome and another bureaucratic red tape meant to add more burden to vacationing Filipino expatriates.
Alan Exevea, another OFW, said, "In the three decades that I've been an OFW, I have not seen the usefulness of the OEC they charge on vacationing OFWS; its cost is out of proportion."