Monday, November 11, 2013

OLTCC holds series of meetings

As a venue to address issues and concerns involving land-based Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), the Overseas Land-based Tripartite Consultative Council (OLTCC) held series of meetings. Among the agenda in the said meeting includes update on the situation in Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt) by the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA), and OFW concerns on the Department of Health (DOH) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Mr. Renato Villa, Senior Special Assistant of the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) provided a situationer of undocumented migrant workers in Saudi Arabia. The amnesty granted for undocumented workers to correct their visa status will end in November 3, 2013. He mentioned that embassy staff are doing their best to facilitate OFW documents for their repatriation but the bottleneck is with the slow processing of exit visa by the JAWAZAT (Passport Department).

Women and their children are being prioritized and there are about 300 being processed. The situation in Riyadh unlike Jeddah is far more challenging since mothers and children are subjected to DNA testing to establish their relationship.

As per record of the embassy, more than 20,000 applied for new passports. In the month of September, there were 2,969 OFWs that have been repatriated and another 2,130 are awaiting their exit visa. The embassy estimates at least 30% of the undocumented workers are looking for new employers and will get employed before the deadline. The embassy is also negotiating with Saudi Immigration to allow immediate departure of OFWs once the exit visa is issued and not to go through the prison anymore.

In Egypt out of 6,000 Filipinos there are only 2,500 registered. The embassy has not advised for repatriation. Meanwhile, in Syria there are more than 3,000 OFWs scheduled for repatriation and as of September 4,500 OFWs were already sent home.

In the meeting, TESDA reported that of the 217 training centers for household service workers only 200 centers were assessed and 100 are found to have violated the rules. The centers were given 30 days to comply or face closure and at least 32 centers had voluntarily closed their operations. Several issues were
raised to TESDA like the official and required number of days for HSW training; the observation that assessment centers have also become training centers; and the practice of training centers being used as collection agents for placement fees. There were reports that some training centers charge as high as 80,000.00 pesos. TESDA was urged to set an acceptable and affordable training fees that should not be substituted as placement fees.

It was also suggested that aside from trade skills HSWs should also be taught life skills (example health and reproductive rights). And that a closer coordination between and among POEA, TESDA and agencies should be strengthened to curb the issue of high training fees. Civil society groups also raised the need to revisit the current conduct of the pre-departure orientation seminars (PDOS).

The Gulf Accredited Medical Clinics Association (GAMCA) practice of “decking” was raised. DOH was told to
supervise such practice of GAMCA requiring OFWs to avail medical test only from their accredited clinics.

An NGO representative suggested that small committees be formed to act on the different issues that have been raised to the Council so that there will be real concrete results and output on the issues. 

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