x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Filipinos welcome change to clearance certificate rules

Time limit meant they had to reapply every time they went home.

ABU DHABI // Filipinos living in the UAE will no longer need to apply for clearance to leave their country each time they return for a holiday.

The Philippines plans to overhaul the system of overseas employment certificates (OECs), the country's labour secretary, Rosalinda Baldoz, told the website InterAksyon at the weekend.

The documents, which prove a worker has been hired legally, are currently valid for only 60 days, meaning Filipinos need a new one each time they return home.

The new certificate will be valid for as long as a worker's contract, removing the need to reapply each time, said Ms Baldoz, who also heads the governing board of the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

The paperwork is available from the Philippine overseas labour office in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, and at POEA offices in the Philippines. The agency is also testing an online application process.

Ms Baldoz said the change would officially be announced on Migrant Workers' Day, June 7.

Nasser Munder, the labour attache in Dubai, said his office had yet to be formally notified of the change, but added that it would be welcome.

On any given weekday the labour office in Abu Dhabi processes 200 applications for employment certificates - and in busy months that number can double.

In December last year, Mr Munder said he had to help out the lone member of staff who issues OECs.

"At that time, people got angry at us and wanted to jump the queue because they were flying on the same day," he said. "But why did they wait until the last minute to apply for their OECs?"

Some do think further ahead. Jonathan Apiado, 35, a clerk in Abu Dhabi, was at the labour office on Sunday to apply for a certificate ahead of a trip home on Thursday.

A resident for 15 years, he said it was time the government addressed the slow processing of these certificates.

"Many have to ask permission from their employers just to come here," he said. "Others even live and work in Al Ain and Ruwais and have to face long queues."

Cerlina Dalaguete, 44, a maid in Abu Dhabi, said she was lucky that she did not have to queue for long.

She is flying home on Saturday to spend a month with her two children in Cebu City, about 600 kilometres south of Manila.

"Last year, there were so many people applying for an OEC," she said. "If the government changes the system, then things will be a lot better and convenient for us."