x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Bid to simplify Filipino labour rules

The new Filipino labour attache in Dubai has queued along with 300 Filipinos applying for their exit clearance as part of a test run to improve the service.

Delmer Cruz, the new labour attache at the Philippine overseas labour office in Dubai, queued up for two hours to test out the service.
Delmer Cruz, the new labour attache at the Philippine overseas labour office in Dubai, queued up for two hours to test out the service.

ABU DHABI // Delmer Cruz queued for more than two hours last Thursday to get an exit clearance needed for a holiday back home.

But unlike the other 300 Filipinos in the queue, he was not a regular member of the public.

Mr Cruz, 47, is the new labour attache at the Philippine overseas labour office in Dubai. He was testing out the service with Venus Abad, the assistant labour attache, to see what needed to change.

"I saw restless faces and heard high-pitched voices," he said. "In the first queue, a lot of people had so many questions. There was some confusion and restlessness among the crowd."

Part of the answer, he believes, is improved information - a simple leaflet with answers to the most common questions.

Filipinos need an overseas employment certificate (OEC) to prove they have been hired legally before they can leave their country.

"It could have taken a much longer time," Mr Cruz said. "But on that day, we had one more staff assigned to the OEC processing."

With only one member of staff processing applications, the wait can be up to four hours.

One woman was pleased to see two officials in the queue waiting their turn. But "it was a pretty long wait. Filling out three forms was a time-consuming exercise".

On any weekday in June and July, the office receives up to 400 applications for the OEC and other services. That falls in August, hitting its peak of 500 to 600 a day in November and December, when many Filipinos go home for Christmas and New Year.

The certificates are issued by the Philippine overseas labour office in Abu Dhabi or Dubai for Dh10, and at Philippine overseas employment administration (Poea) offices in the Philippines.

Applicants must be members of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, costing Dh92 for two years, and the Home Development Mutual Fund, known as the Pag-Ibig Fund, costing at least Dh10 a month. There are plans to streamline the system by allowing online applications and removing the need for a new certificate each time a person leaves the Philippines, according to Poea.

"We're doing test runs of different systems," Mr Cruz said. "With the present manual system, we will review the processes and systems, improve on them and may recommend to Poea to simplify the forms."

rruiz@thenational.ae