Away from the maddening impeachment trial and the aftermath of Cebu’s Sinulog is this little report that the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) over-collected so-called “Balik Manggagawa” processing fees from overseas workers.
A report from the Commission on Audit (COA) shows that the national government collected an extra P13 million in 2010 from the fees collected from workers despite a ceiling that requires them to pay only P100.
This means that regardless of what country they work in, Filipino overseas workers who are on leave or securing an employment certificate for their foreign employers should pay only the foreign currency equivalent of P100.
Instead, the COA said the workers are made to pay arbitrary fixed rates—the key word being arbitrary—by deputized Philippine Overseas Labor Officers (POLO).
As a result, the government collected P40 million in excess of the projected 26 million from the fees that were imposed by the POEA.
As if the government isn’t earning billions in revenues from their workers, it also had to make life more difficult for the OFWs who endure tough working conditions and loneliness in the distance that separates them and their families.
It’s been two years since this practice ensued and yet the COA can do nothing except make a report on it. It would have been better if the fees go to providing financial incentives for the OFWs who are taxed enough by their employers and the agencies who facilitated their employment.
The over-charge especially hits those employed as domestic helpers in Middle East and Asian nations whose peoples treat them with anything from general acceptance to outright disdain.
The POEA for its part is awaiting guidelines from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) before acting on this. But really, what’s stopping the agencies concerned from giving the over-charged workers a refund?
Does POEA need to wait for guidelines to do this? We could only speculate how much was collected from Cebuano OFWs by the POLOs concerned. Surely these workers deserve more than flower leis and a red carpet welcome from the airport.
“While the excess charges are beneficial to the government being the sole beneficiary of the over-collection, the OFWs were deprived of the privilege of enjoying the benefits of much lower imposed actual rates, particularly those low-salaried workers,” the COA said.
It’s best for the national government to return money that the OFWs own immediately. Since the administration supposedly treads the “straight, narrow path” of upright moral certainty, such practice should be disposed of pronto.
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