Filipinos in Dubai, Northern Emirates strategise to boost Manila connectivity - GulfToday

Filipinos in Dubai, Northern Emirates strategise to boost Manila connectivity


Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

Two Filipinos in Dubai and the Northern Emirates are spearheading four community strategies to help resolve the disconnect between the approximately over 12 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) worldwide and their legislators as well as policy- makers back home.

Rights Corridor (RC) managing director Froilan Malit Jr. and Kalayaan (Philippine Independence Day/Bayanihan) 2020 chairman Jason Roi Bucton expressed hope that these four strategies are going to start within 45 days and would be continuing.

Gulf Today interviewed them recently after the May 15 (Friday) RC-organised webinar on the controversial Universal Health Law (UHL) signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in Nov. 2019 and its embattled allegedly corruption-tainted implementer, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

At the webinar, also with Kuwait-based journalist Ricky Laxa, were PhilHealth-Corporate Affairs vice-president Dr. Shirley Domingo and PhilHealth Training director/Overseas Filipinos Programme senior manager Chona Yap.

Malit’s and Bucton’s goal is to primarily bring about connectivity and cohesiveness between and among the three million OFWs – including the unregistered – in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena).

The four strategies are:

* Organise the Filipino leaders and groups for the purpose of developing a national action plan to reform the UHL and the 25-year-old PhilHealth attached to Manila’s Department of Health.

* Strengthen regional Filipino community groups and utilise such regional coalition building strategy to lobby at the bicameral Philippine legislature and structures of power in the Philippine political arena.

* Create a national task force or platform that will serve as a conduit between the Philippine senior officials and OFW communities in the UAE. This would be a vital tool in enabling the OFWs’s voices to be heard and represented within the Philippine legislative policy-making process.

* Disseminate fact-based information by creating an online dialogue geared towards educating OFWs about current and emerging laws, regulations and guidelines which would impact on their rights and welfare.

Malit and Bucton came up with the four strategies having been encouraged by Domingo and Yap to immediately formulate avenues through which OFWs could influence their senators and congressmen in amending the UHL.

The UHL has become controversial due to the lack of information dissemination particularly among the OFWs.

Domingo and Yap pointed out that PhilHealth is only the UHL implementing arm.

They said the new three per cent salary-deducted PhilHealth premium rates, alongside the new payment schemes which are applicable to all public-private sector Philippine/overseas-based Filipino workforce prevail, and are enforced unless the law gets congressionally altered.

Both said the tax-free government-owned and controlled corporation has yet to receive a written document from the Office of the President on Duterte’s pronouncements regarding the suspension on the collection of premium rates and the UHL being voluntary among all OFWs.

On the lack of information dissemination, OFW Watch-Italy founder-president Rhoderick Ople in a previously-held RC webinar, claimed that while a PhilHealth representative has been assigned in that Southern European country, this however has failed to update them on any PhilHealth policies and the UHL.

Meanwhile, Filipinos in the UAE have yet to wait for the deployment of a PhilHealth representative even as from the sidelines of the 2015 official tour of Yap, she told this reporter on plans of assigning officer/s here.

From the May 15 webinar, Yap said a PhilHealth officer should have been in the UAE this year “but the pandemic happened.”

On Sunday, Consul General in Dubai and the Northern Emirates Paul Raymund Cortes confirmed Yap’s statement: “The officer could have been here last February but COVID19 (happened).”

The PhilHealth officials and Cortes are open to continuing dialogues.

Cortes said: “Ever since, the consulate has always believed that the policy process must include the people or the citizens who will be directly affected by the regulations enacted back home.”

The May 15 panel discussed the nature/social responsibility aspect of the UHL, and the reasons for the new premium rates and payment schemes beginning April 2020.

Bucton and Laxa reiterated the OFWs’ clamour for this to be suspended amidst the harsh and deplorable socio-economic effects of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID19).

Domingo and Yap said the UHL through PhilHealth aims to improve on the universal health coverage for all Filipinos wherever they are and whatever their health requirements are.

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