CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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New mandatory insurance policy labelled money grab

HONG KONG (SE): A migrant rights group warned that the new policy of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) on mandatory insurance will discourage employers from hiring Filipino workers and the burden will ultimately be shifted to the workers themselves.
Under the POEA Governing Board Resolution 4 signed on August 17, all returning workers must register with the POEA and, apart from providing a passport valid for at least six months and a valid working visa, they have to submit a certificate of insurance with coverage similar to that required of those leaving for their first job abroad.
The insurance will cost US$144 ($1,200), which has to be paid before workers are allowed to return to their work places.
There is no date as to when the new policy will be enforced, as the government is still working on the implementing rules and regulations before fully enforcing it, according to a report in the Business Mirror on October 8.
Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, the chairperson of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, said in a statement issued on October 5, that the mandatory insurance is just another money-making scheme for the already burdened overseas workers that can cost them their jobs.
Pelaez explained that employers in Hong Kong are already required by law to get insurance for domestic workers and that the new mandatory insurance order will just add to the list of expenses for which they are made to pay and will only increase conflicts between employers and employees.
Pelaez believes that even though the resolution says that the employer must pay, in reality, it is most likely that the workers themselves will be paying the insurance to prevent arguments with their employers. 
“There is no mechanism to ensure that the employer will pay for it. This new fee might even lead to domestic workers losing their jobs because of tension with their employers,” she said. She added that overseas workers find it a heavy burden as the superfluous fee amounts to almost 30 per cent of their monthly salary.
The mandatory insurance came out months before the coming midterm elections in May 2019. Pelaez said her group cannot help but think that this collection is one way to accumulate more money for the elections.
Eman Villanueva, secretary general of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong, told the Sunday Examiner that the new mandatory insurance is redundant as a worker’s medical expenses are covered in Hong Kong and, if workers prefer to be treated in the Philippines, they can take out insurance in the Philippines of their own volition. 
“Making it mandatory removes an option for migrant workers to decide,” he said.
Migrante International said in a statement on October 9 that the resolution shows the government’s intention of handing over the responsibility of providing protective services to overseas workers to the private sector. 
It also said the measure shows that the government is unsatisfied with extorting mandatory insurance from new hires and is trying to get money from rehires to further boost the profit of POEA-accredited insurance providers.

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