Overseas Filipino workers and Philippine labor officials abroad remain in the dark over the new OFW ID that Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said would be distributed soon following its launch on June 12 in Manila.
Bello initially said the card would be distributed starting July 31, but the plan appears to have been put on hold after a controversy erupted on whether the card would be free as promised.
A statement issued by Malacanang during its launch said employers will have to pay for the card, and employment agencies should ensure that the fee is paid.
In the wake of the outcry that followed this announcement, Bello was interviewed by pro-government blogger Mocha Uson where he reiterated that the card will be given free.
However, he no longer set a date for its distribution.
In Hong Kong, Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre has said he has yet to receive guidelines on issuing the OFW ID, which is meant to replace the much-criticised overseas employment certificate.
On the other hand, OFW leaders to whom Bello promised a free iDOLE card are outraged over plans to charge a fee to employers.
Dolores Balladares, chair of United Filipinos in Hong Kong-Migrante, said: “Now, it is revealed that (the iDOLE) is not actually free, and it is our employers who will pay for it. This is an outrage! … He’s reneging on his promise.”
She said not all employers are kind-hearted enough to agree to pay for the card so OFWs would be forced to pay the fee themselves just to keep their jobs.
Her secretary general, Eman Villanueva, said the iDOLE had turned out to be another moneymaking instrument of the government.
Unifil-Migrante HK scheduled a march in Central on July 23 against the iDOLE and the new governmennt policy on balikbayan boxes, but cancelled at the last minute as the typhoon signal 8 was hoisted over Hong Kong.
The protest action had been reset for Sunday, July 30.
Meanwhile, the POEA issued a notice in Filipino titled “Paglilinaw tungkol sa OFW ID” on its webpage to clear the confusion over the new ID.
The agency that would manage the distribution has a three-point advice to the public:
* Hindi pa po nagbibigay ng OFW ID sa ngayon. Hindi pa po tapos ang guidelines tungkol dito (The OFW ID is not yet being issued. The guidelines on this are not yet ready)
* Habang wala pa ang ID, sa bmonline.ph pa rin po ang exemption o appointment para sa OEC ng mga balik-manggagawa (While the ID is not yet available, please use bmonline.ph to apply for exemption or set an appointment for OEC for returning workers)
* Hintayin po ang mga susunod na announcement para sa tamang proseso ng pagkuha ng ID ng mga OFW (Please wait for the next announcement on the correct process of securing the OFW ID)
No mention was made about a fee being charged for the card.
Bello said DOLE would soon issue the guidelines for issuing the OFW card, which he described as President Duterte’s “best gift” to millions of OFWs.
The card is promised to ensure easy transactions between OFWs and government and private agencies.
He said the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration would upload the names of duly registered OFWs to the DOLE cloud, then download them for printing.
“All the unique IDs will be delivered to them, whether they are in the Philippines or overseas,” Bello said.
He said that the OFW ID will undergo a three-month pilot run before it can serve as the OFW’s automated OEC, and airport and immigration ID pass. But this time around, he gave no date on when the card would be issued.