(File photo)

MANILA – The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has suspended the implementation of the Expanded Compulsory Insurance Coverage for land-based rehired and direct hired overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) upon the instruction of Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Secretary Susan Ople.

The Expanded Compulsory Insurance Coverage for returning OFWs and direct hires was the subject of Department Order (DO) No. 228 issued by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in October 2021.

Undersecretary Bernard Olalia, officer-in-charge of the POEA, said in a statement Monday that DO 228 was a “protective insurance mechanism against OFWs contracting Covid-19.”

In ordering the suspension, he cited an advisory dated Aug. 5, 2022 that the global health situation has improved and there is a high vaccination rate among OFWs.

“The suspension will save our balik-manggagawa (returning workers) and those directly hired by foreign employers at least US$35 (PHP1,700) worth of mandatory insurance coverage while reducing the number of requirements imposed by government. Malaking ginhawa ito para sa ating (It will be a big relief to our) OFWs,” Ople said in a separate statement.

She added that she has received feedbacks from OFWs who were confused if they should continue to pay for the expanded compulsory insurance even when most of the country is under Alert Level 1 while other countries have reported lower Covid-19 infections and have loosened travel restrictions.

Ople clarified that the mandatory insurance coverage for newly hired OFWs remains in place because it was set by law.

“To be clear, there are two types of compulsory insurance. The one for the new OFWs as a result of the enacted law, and the expanded compulsory insurance for returning workers and direct hires stated in a DOLE department order. We will continue to implement what the law stipulates," Ople said.

"But the expanded version set by Department Order 228 for returning workers and direct hires will be set aside for the time being due to the lack of consultation with stakeholders," she added.

The DO requires employers or the workers themselves to pay for the insurance coverage subject to full refund on the first day of arrival at the worksite or country of destination.

Ople noted that the benefits of such an insurance scheme for rehired and directly hired overseas workers at the height of the Covid-19 epidemic have yet to be established.

“The order to suspend will be followed by a series of formal consultations with all stakeholders most especially our OFWs in different parts of the world via online meetings since they were meant to be the primary beneficiaries of DO No. 228,” she said.

The consultations will enable the DMW to report on the progress of other programs and services, including ongoing efforts to cut red tape and carry out the digitalization of the overseas employment certificate, Ople said. (PNA)