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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dear Philippine Senators and Congressmen

An Open Letter to the Members of the House and Senate on PhilHealth’s PhP2,400 Premium Payment 

We respectfully write to you, our Congressmen and Senators, as Filipino citizens, with the privilege and honor of living under the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines.
We are Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who have chosen to leave the Philippines to seek and search for better livelihood opportunities abroad so that we may be able to support ourselves and our families back home. We left because we have no other options back home.
We are in constant search for greener pasture and it is not at all that easy, yet hundreds of thousands of OFWs have created names for them and have excelled in their chosen fields of endeavor, setting the world standards for nobility and for hard work. Statistics show that there are approximately 13.5% of us who are engaged in white collar and professional jobs receiving hefty salaries and 86.5% of us are in the blue collar employment categories. We believe that there is nothing wrong with doing an honest day’s work as domestic helpers or as construction workers or doing any other menial and blue collar jobs even if we’re underpaid averaging between US$500 to US$1,000 per month. This is the only option for the majority of us
We are a nation of approximately 10 million OFWs (11% of the 92 million Filipinos) scattered all over the different continents, each with a different story to tell but united with a saga about our struggle for empowerment and recognition.
We believe that OFW empowerment and recognition will only be realized through a collective effort among our ranks, thus, we have connected together through the different social media platforms to voice out our sentiments and beliefs on issues that affect us, our families and our loved ones.
We represent OFWs from 67 different countries who have bonded together to call ourselves the Global OFW Voices.

What is our problem?

Before we look at the problem, we want to make it known that the OFWs are not against the implementation of the Universal Health Care or P-Noy’s Kalusugan Pangkalahatan Program. We believe that it is the prime duty and goal of the government in keeping Filipinos in good health and ensure the availability, accessibility, affordability and quality of all the necessary health services for all Filipinos—whether rich or poor.
We look forward to achieving the Program’s objectives of providing the highest possible quality of health care that is accessible, efficient, equitably distributed, adequately funded and fairly financed while appropriately used by an informed and empowered public.
We believe and support the Program’s objectives of providing poor citizens with solidarity health insurance through the state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), where the government helps the marginalized and impoverished people in the society.
We believe that in order for the Program to succeed, it is the government’s responsibility to provide adequate resources—health human resources, health facilities, and health financing.

The problem is PhilHealth!

Last December 15, 2011, PHILHEALTH CIRCULAR No. 22 was sent out to all PhilHealth Offices with the subject: “New Premium Contributions to the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) in Support for the Attainment of Universal Health Care and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)”, wherein the PhilHealth Board, through Resolution No. 1571, series of 2011, approved the increases in the annual premium contribution effective CY 2012.
Under Section C. Individually Paying and Overseas Workers Programs
“Self-employed individuals under the individually Paying and Overseas Workers Programs shall pay the minimum annual premium contribution of Two Thousand Four Hundred Pesos (PhP2,400.00) effective 01 July, 2012″.
In consideration of the request of civil society and non-government organizations, the PhilHealth Board released PHILHEALTH Circular No. 007, Series of 2012 deferring the implementation from July 2012 to January 2013.
This may be a breather for now but the fight is far from over.
  1. We, Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), were never consulted regarding this increase and on what the intended increase was for. PhilHealth claimed to have conducted consultation meetings with OFW representatives and the concerned government agencies, but it has never reached the majority of us. We don’t even know who those OFWs clones were. Was the overall impact to the migrant workers considered?
    1. The very essence why we introduced ourselves in the opening letter is for you to know that we are not the Toms, Dicks, and Harrys that PhilHealth claimed sat with them in the many hotel function rooms for their so-called consultative meetings on issues with the OFWs. To set the record, we don’t know who those OFW representatives were and whose interest they represented during those “pricey” meetings.
    2. We tried to identify the so-called OFW representatives in the photos at OWP-PhilHealth Facebook Page ( but we failed to align them to any OFW groups we know.
    3. Was PhilHealth interested to know about the plight of the OFWs? PhilHealth was never interested to know the pulse and sentiments of the OFWs. If they were, they could have visited our blogs, our Facebook pages, even our personal social media accounts. Those accounts are not faceless and nameless. They are accounts of real people who want to be continuously sane, to divert homesickness and the longing for home.  Those accounts will show the very soul of our sentiments.
  2. We were under the impression that we are protected by RA 10022 which “prohibits increase of government fees imposed to OFWs.” Upon inquiry, PhilHealth starts to use legal parlance and technicalities that the increase is in the “premium” and not “fees” which is not guaranteed by RA 10022. Are they serious about it? Or are they playing around with OFWs which has been the case ever since.
  3. We were paying PhP900 then it was increased to 1,200 without due consultation with the general OFW stakeholders. They shoved that increase down to our throats, and in a short span of time, realized that that they can abuse us further. So a few months after implementing the hike, they swiftly decided to slap us again with over 100% increase to PhP2,400! Wala na ba talaga silang awa?
  4. Furthermore, we want to be enlightened and clarified on the following issues:
    1. Numerous complaints of inefficiencies in PhilHealth’s services to OFWs and their families.
    2. Proof why there is a need for the premium hike despite a huge cash reserve and generous budgetary support from the government.
    3. Detailed and audited financial statements, income and expenditures, earnings to prove the need for increase in contributions.

WE CRY FOUL to PHILHEALTH’S plan of implementing an increase in premium payment for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) from PhP900 to PhP1,2000 then PhP2,400 effective Jan 1, 2013!

We knocked on the doors OWP-PhilHealth and P-Noy’s Official Facebook Page, using the power of Social Media. We voiced out our sentiments and our stand on the issue. We kept on knocking, until we found that we had ENOUGH!
We posted our complaints to the PhilHealth page, supposedly dedicated for OFWs but what did we get? The platform where we thought would give us the freedom to voice out our sentiments turned their deaf ears and decided to be blind. We barraged the Page walls with posts, links, requests and pictures because we wanted the leadership of PhilHealth to read and feel the pulses and sentiments of the OFWs. But what happened? The PhilHealth page supposedly dedicated for the OFWs DELETED THEM ALL! What does this mean? What signal do they want to send to us?
Together, our voices echoed through the boundless corners of Social Media. Together, we raised our arms to declare our utmost disappointment with the government for treating our sector as “milking cows” to finance the current administration’s political agenda to implement a flawed Universal Health Insurance strategy under the disguise of solidarity.
We called on the President of the Republic of the Philippines, His Excellency Benigno “Noynoy” C. Aquino, together with his appointees to the Board of PhilHealth headed by Secretary Enrique T. Ona and Dr. Eduardo P. Banzon, to carefully consider the impending hike as this will definitely undermine the mandate of their offices hoping that even just a minute of P-Noy’s State of the Nation Address will be given to the issues and concerns of the OFWs and all we got is this –
“Sa tuwing haharap ako sa isang OFW na nagsasabing, “Salamat at puwede ko na muling pangaraping tumanda sa Pilipinas,” ang tugon ko:”ikaw ang gumawa nito”…..P-Noy’s 2012 SONA.
Is this now the general feeling of the OFWs who are being forced to pay the increased Premium Payment of PhilHealth?
To say that the OFWs were disappointed with P-Noy’s 2012 SONA is an understatement!

Congressmen and Senators, lend us your ears…


The OFWs have already provided the Philippine economy the stability it desperately needs; we have provided our families their food and kept them in school so our next generation of Filipinos will be healthy and educated. We found ourselves jobs abroad because our government is unable to create jobs for us in our home land. The strengthening of the peso is wounding us, yet it epitomizes our contribution to our nation building brought by our dollar remittances. You even called us “Bagong Bayani”! Is this how our nation treats the modern-day heroes?
Do you still find this contribution to the national coffers insufficient? Hindi pa din po ba sapat ang mahigit sa P18 Bilyong Remittances kada taon na bunga ng aming pagtitiis, paghihirap, at minsan pagbubuwis ng sariling buhay? We believe that despite the emerging markets slump, the euro zone continuous struggle, and the slowdown in the economies of the BRIC countries, feared to drag down the global economy, the Philippine economy continues to surge surpassing IMF’s forecast growth of 3.5% for 2012. We believe that the money sent as remittances by 10 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) which account for about 10% of the country’s GDP, serve as one of the long-term stabilizers, and is relatively unhindered by a sagging global economy.
We oppose the hike because it is not morally acceptable to put additional burden to our yoke! Mga Ginoo, ibinuwis na ng iba sa amin ang buhay mapunan lang ang hindi kayang ibigay ng gobyerno, ang magkaroon ng trabaho. Then you will tell us 3.50/day is nothing to the benefits we will get?
What we are against is the government’s abusive and inconsiderate direction to have the OFWs borne the additional funds that will sustain the current administration’s political agenda. We are just workers abroad. When we go back home during our vacation, we would like to be with our families where we need money to enjoy our limited time and to use our hard earned money for our needs, money which we do not have enough most of the time. Increasing that fee or premium (whatever you may want to call it - premium means a voluntary contribution for the risk insured against, while it is mandatory in POEA, it becomes a fee or a kotong or a tax. Premium is just a text used but in substance, a tax, and worst if it is seen as an export tax imposed on OFWs just like commercial goods) is a total manifestation of your lack of regard to those who enslave themselves in return for a meager salary.
We refute the claim that the PhilHealth premium hike is to attain the Universal Health Care Program of P-Noy. Health care should be free for every-Juan!

We demand that Philhealth coverage becomes optional to OFWs

We oppose the premium increase and make the membership optional because we see that it strengthens the inherently rob-Pedro-to-pay-Juan system of insurances. We don’t say that we want to be Juan so Pedro will pay for our medical expenses nor we want to be Pedro either. Some people must lose in order for others to win. This creates a continuous arms race against the PhilHealth members.
We see that the payment of PhilHealth premium as a requirement for the issuance of the Overseas Employment Contract (OEC) to be among other unjust state exactions and other forms of legalized kotong.
We never denied that some of the OFWs benefit from PhilHealth through their dependents. However, majority of us are already under a better insurance coverage provided by our employers. This is the perfect time to revisit your policy regarding OFWs. Do not insist on your premise of solidarity, excuse us Sirs, we make our nation’s economy afloat. Let us know if that is not enough.
A significant number of OFWs have no “eligible” dependents because they are single, with parents under 60 years of age. They have no use for it, how can your conscience allow you to live your life thinking that these OFWs are not using it, the government has a mandate to care for the Filipino people, we are already suffering to help our nation survive the global financial crisis, don’t pass everything to us!
We stand firm that this increase is unjust, wrong and morally unacceptable. We beseech the House and the Senate to re-examine PhilHealth’s mandatory collection of premium as majority of the OFWs do not directly benefit from it. Our task is to love our country and we are already keeping our nation standing economically, it is extremely abusive to extort the overseas workers!
The OFWs through the Facebook group of Global OFW Voices and Pinoy Expats/OFW Blogs Awards, Inc. will not stop in making this plea. We vow to move forward – NO TO PHILHEALTH INCREASE! YES TO OPTIONAL MEMBERSHIP.
To the members of the House and Senate, you who make the laws are in control of the show.
We call for a moratorium and the suspension of the Circular Orders and Board Resolutions on the PhilHealth Premium Increase.
Without this peaceful revolution of the OFWs, we will remain to be just bricks in wall and cogs in the machine.
Gumagalang at umaasa,

AYAW KO SA Dagdag Bayarin from P900 to P2,400 ng mga OFW SA PhilHealth


Manila, Philippines:

Pete Erlano Rahon | Director Philippine Operations | +63917.733.7152
Europe, Middle East & Africa:
Kenji Solis | Founding Chairman | +966.54648.1154
Australia, East Asia Pacific:
Brenda Pinosan | Asia Pacific Coordinator | Tel. +6012.692.9710
North America & Canada:
F. Jigs Segre | Director Global Advocacy & Strategic Initiatives | Tel. +1510.589.2950

©2012 Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards

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