Filipino workers planning to go on vacation in the Philippines are being encouraged to first obtain their Overseas Employment Certificate or OEC before leaving Saipan-or at least while the Philippine Consulate General office remains open.
This comes after the Philippine Overseas Labor Office recently received and processed requests from vacationing Filipino workers who are already in Manila and are having a hard time securing their OEC.
Under rules and regulations set forth by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, overseas Filipino workers on vacation are required to get an OEC to ensure that they are properly documented and are eligible to receive government protection and benefits.
The OEC is presented at the POEA Labor Assistance Center and the Bureau of Immigration at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport before the worker is allowed to check in and board his or her flight back to her employment destination.
This document also ensures the Filipino worker's exemption from travel tax and airport terminal fee.
POLO officer-in-charge Julie Fabian noted that before an OEC is issued to a Filipino worker, he or she must first become a member of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.
Here in the Northern Marianas, OWWA membership is available only to Filipino workers who have approved CW-1 petitions from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.
OWWA membership costs $25 while the OEC is for $3. Both are valid for one year.
According to Fabian, they have received this week at least three to four requests from vacationing Filipino workers who called them from Manila to seek assistance in the issuance of OEC. These workers did not obtain the document before leaving Saipan.
When obtaining OEC on Saipan, the Filipino worker only has to present the required documents to POLO on the ground floor of Marianas Business Plaza. These include a valid passport and a copy of the approved CW-1 petition. The process, Fabian pointed out, only takes a few minutes.
At the POEA office in Manila, applicants are being asked to bring more documents, including a letter addressed to the administrator, said Fabian.
In several instances, applicants are even asked to come back another day or so, such as the case Fabian handled yesterday, in which the affected Filipino worker was asked to return to POEA next week when the worker's return flight to Saipan is already on Monday.
Fabian said the inconvenience in the OEC application process in Manila began in 2005 when the CNMI was placed on the list of Filipino workers' destinations with labor market restrictions.
“With the consulate closing down after Oct. 31, I am concerned that it will be difficult for our Filipino workers to apply for OEC before going to the Philippines since the Guam Consulate, which will take over the responsibilities of the Consulate on island, does not have POLO office,” she told Saipan Tribune.
But Fabian also said that previous labor attachés have already taken steps to remedy the situation regarding the difficult OEC application process for Filipino workers from the CNMI, saying the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota have been host to thousands of these workers for decades and counting.
She disclosed that she is working on seeking guidelines from POEA to alleviate the OEC application process for Filipino workers in the Commonwealth once the consulate shuts down.
“There's no need for us to put in our recommendations since we regularly submit reports to our Manila offices and they know what's going on here in the Commonwealth,” added Fabian.
For more information about the OEC and OWWA membership, visit POLO or call 235-3411.