Filipino expats call for scrapping ‘cumbersome’ exit permits
ABU DHABI // Filipino expatriates want their government to scrap exit permits, which prove they have been hired legally, calling them an unnecessary burden.
New Filipino hires and those returning from holiday must obtain an overseas employment certificate (OEC) before they leave the country. Many have long balked at the process when they already have work visas and contracts to prove their status.
The problem is being raised again after Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte, in his first state of the nation address, urged politicians to merge government agencies into one department that would cater to the needs of overseas workers.
For Filipinos in the UAE, the certificate is issued by their country’s overseas labour office in Abu Dhabi or Dubai for a fee of Dh10.
Those who fail to apply ahead of a trip home can do so online and print it.
“It’s really such a waste of time and money,” said Ernie Rellon, 54, who teaches golf in Abu Dhabi and is due to fly home next week. “I think they should just abolish the OEC.”
To obtain one, applicants must be members of the overseas workers welfare administration. A two-year membership costs Dh92, but Mr Rellon, who was hired for his job four months ago, was also asked to pay a Dh40 fee to have his new job contract verified.
The certificate is valid for 60 days, meaning overseas Filipino workers usually need a new one each time they return home.
Maricar Veldad, 36, an executive secretary in Dubai, said she did not understand why a certificate was needed every time an overseas worker left the Philippines. “We are in a digital age. Everything can be updated online.”
The Filipino migrant rights group Migrante Middle East considers the certificate a form of state exaction, said Nhel Morona, its country co-coordinator.
“We can’t figure out what they do with all the money they collect from us,” he said.
Hans Cacdac, the head of the overseas employment administration, said that it was developing a paperless system and the current one would gradually be phased out, first for workers in South-East Asia.
Obtaining a certificate exempts overseas workers from paying a Dh45 terminal fee at airports in the Philippines. But since it is automatically charged when buying flight tickets abroad, they have to wait in long queues to get it refunded when they leave their country.
Many end up forgoing their refund out of fear they will miss their flights.
Before flying back to Dubai this month, Mrs Veldad got hers, but only after a long wait.
“Our boarding time was 4.10pm and I had to wait in line for an hour and 25 minutes to get a refund.”