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Staff Report Published: January 14, 2014

Another new fee now for OFWs’ exit clearances

DUBAI:  Now Filipinos will have to pay another fee during exit clearance from this month – members of the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-Ibig Fund), are being asked to pay a Dh20 fee directly to its authorized remittance partners.

This is in addition. For an exit clearance OFWs already have to contribute to the Pag-Ibig Fund, says The National. Earlier, a Pag-Ibig representative in Dubai or Abu Dhabi would accept the minimum monthly contribution of 100 pesos (Dh10) from OFWs without charging fees. One might have chosen to contribute more than this amount.

Francis Barral, a document controller in Dubai feels this is “so inconvenient, and an added burden to OFWs.” He was faced with this when he applied for his overseas employment certificate (OEC) at the Philippine overseas labour office in Al Ghusais on January 6.

Last time Barral had gone home was in 2009. He paid Dh10 for the OEC and Dh92 as an Overseas Workers Welfare Administration membership fee. Then came the surprise: he was asked to drive to the nearest remittance centre for his Pag-Ibig contribution and pay an additional fee.

“I was charged by Al Ansari Exchange a Dh20 remittance fee – about twice as much as my actual contribution,” he said. (Dh11 equaled P100 at the time of payment).

The other problem was the drive. “Why can’t we pay directly at the labor office which will save us time and money?” Mr Barral said. “Those who rely on public transport or those coming all the way from Ras Al Khaimah and other places in the emirates will have to spend more in taxi and bus fares.”

According to Lowella Recto, Pag-Ibig’s representative in Dubai, expats can also pay at Pag-ibig Fund offices in the Philippines, Globe G-Cash remittance centers, or use a credit card.

“We gave the information in the media as early as September last year,” she said. “It’s become a habit among many Filipinos to pay Dh10 whenever they return home for vacation. We are encouraging them to pay more than the minimum contribution to save on remittance charges, or choose another payment facility.”

Monthly contributions to the fund earn annual dividends which are credited to the member’s account. These savings are tax-free and government guaranteed, and will remain in the member’s name even if the member transfers employment or becomes unemployed.

“They’re basically saving for their future,” Ms Recto said. “The fee paid at remittance centers is a normal transaction charge.”

There are other benefits. Pag-Ibig Fund members can also apply for a housing, multi-purpose or a calamity loan, Ms Recto said.

But there is another grouse. “Why is our government allowing private companies to benefit from this by accepting our Pag-Ibig contributions for a fee?” asks Nhel Morona, rights group Migrante Middle East’s UAE coordinator. “Ordinary Filipinos do not have the means to make a lump sum payment of 24 monthly contributions to avail of a Pag-Ibig loan.”

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