Bill seeks compulsory welfare insurance plan for OFWs

MANILA, Philippines - A bill in the House of Representatives is seeking compulsory welfare insurance program for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

House Bill 5621 proposes that the welfare insurance program will created in addition to the benefits OFWs get from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

In an article on the House of Representatives website, author and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the bill aims to protect and ensure well-being of OFWs amid numerous reports of maltreatment and exploitation they suffer.

He said more than one million OFWs stand to benefit from the measure once it is enacted into law, citing that the number of those working abroad has increased almost 25-fold over the past 20 years.

There are now nearly 1.2 million registered deployments to over 190 countries in 2006 alone, he said.

Under the bill, the proposed insurance program shall cover the following:

* Accidental Death Benefit of up to US$15,000;
* Survivor's Benefit in case of natural death, of up to US10,000;
* Permanent Total Disablement of up to US$7,500;
* Repatriation of Bodily Remains, including burial, of up to US$15,000;
* Repatriation due to Emergency Evacuation and legitimate causes of up to US$1,000;
* Subsistence Allowance of US$100 per month for six months totaling US$600; and
* Legitimate Monetary Claims for Unpaid/Rightful and Just Wages of up to US$4,500.

Also, the bill provides that all recruitment agencies shall pay a premium of US$3 per month to OWWA for the insurance coverage of OFWs.

In case of failure to pay the premium on time, the recruitment agency shall be liable to pay interest at the rate of 12% annually.

Refusal to pay the premium for at least three consecutive months shall be a ground for the suspension or revocation of the recruitment agency's license based on the bill.

The matter of promulgating the rules and regulations of the measure once it is enacted into law shall be left to Department of Labor and Employment as provided in the bill.