New POEA chief eyes online OEC processing for OFWs

By Cathy Rose A. Garcia, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Jan 05 2012 11:54 AM | Updated as of Jan 06 2012 07:25 PM

Philippine Overseas Employment Administration chief Hans Cacdac

MANILA, Philippines - Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) may soon be able to secure their overseas employment certificate (OEC) online or at a nearby shopping mall. Newly installed Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) chief Hans Cacdac is proposing to allow online processing of the OECs, as part of his plan to improve agency's services. 

"We're thinking of doing online processing (for OECs). But we have to make sure the system is huge enough to handle it," Cacdac said in an interview with abs-cbnNEWS.com on Thursday.

At present, new hires and returning OFWs have to secure their OEC or travel exit clearance from the POEA. Many OFWs have complained of long lines and slow processing of documents at the POEA, especially during the peak holiday season. OFWs are required to secure an OEC before they are allowed to leave the country.

An average of 1,500 to 2,000 Filipinos go to the POEA daily to get their OEC. But during the holiday season, this spikes up to an average of 3,000 a day.

The process of securing an OEC has 3 stages: evaluation, assessment and payment. "The entire process can only take 10-15 minutes but the problem is the sheer volume. That's why it takes so long," Cacdac said.

On Mornings@ANC, Cacdac said he is keen to streamline these procedures to ease the OFWs' burden.

"We would want to ease any undue burden that the process may have caused in the past. What we want to do is cut down procedures that may have caused delays in the past and cut down on steps that may not be necessary, so that we could at least focus on the types of OFWs that would require better protection," he said.

For instance, the POEA increased the number of cashiers handling payments for OECs.

"What we're trying to do is to bring in as much people, as much personnel, as much IT equipment so that a higher number of OFWs can be accommodated.  We noticed the payment section was a severe bottleneck for many of our balik manggagawas.  What we did was apply the principle that when you're paying the fees, you must not be burdened and you must not be held up in a line," he said.

OEC at the mall

The POEA Administrator also suggested reviving the POEA kiosks shopping malls to make it more convenient and accessible for OFWs.  POEA kiosks had previously been set up at shopping malls during Christmas 2010, but it was scrapped due to low turnout.

"Konti lang daw kasi ang volume sa malls. But sabi rin nila na nag-breakdown yun computer systems. So how can they say na it didn't work if the computers break down? We want to try it again," Cacdac said.

However, Cacdac admitted there is no allocation for these projects under the 2012 budget.

"Reprocessing"

Aside from streamlining the OEC procedures, Cacdac said the POEA is also going after illegal recruiters and human traffickers this year.

"We have to go after the illegal recruiters and human traffickers. They go hand-in-hand, you protect the legitimates and punish the violators. We are focusing on that as well this year," he added.
 
The POEA is also becoming stricter in processing papers of Filipino workers, with vulnerable skills sets, particularly domestic help. It is cracking down on recruiters and agencies who are involved in "reprocessing," which is the act of miscalssifying OFWs.  Reprocessing is a criminal act under the amended Migrant Workers' Act.

"A lower-skilled OFW would be declared as a higher-skilled OFW, so they would belong to a category where they can be more easily processed. There are certain cases where some erring agencies may declared a DH as a receptionist or even a nurse," Cacdac said.

At the same time, the POEA is also working to improve the Philippines' bilateral agreements, which cover OFWs, with other countries.

Cacdac said there is a need to working conditions, entitlements, working hours, overtime, social protection, access to justice for OFWs in other countries.