x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

New online scheme for Filipino exit clearances to go live by March

The new process will be come into effect in March, removing the need for residents to visit the Philippines embassy or consulate.

ABU DHABI // A new online scheme will soon remove the need for Filpinos to visit their embassy or consulate to get their exit clearances.

“We will pilot test the online processing of overseas employment certificates next month and roll out the system by March,” Hans Cacdac, head of the Philippine overseas employment administration (Poea), said on Monday.

“We have been working on the e-payment scheme with the LandBank of the Philippines.”

He had discussed plans to fast-track the processing of the certificates as early as January 2012 but the budget had yet to be approved.

“Many are excited about it,” said Delia Palomar, the assistant labour attache in Abu Dhabi, who said she had not been formally notified about the move. “They’re asking us when it will start.”

Filipinos arriving in the UAE to work or returning from holiday at home must secure a certificate before they leave the country to prove they have been legally hired.

It exempts workers from paying the travel tax and terminal fee at the Philippines’ international airports.

Until the online system is ready, the certificates are available at the Philippine overseas labour offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai for Dh10.

Applicants can also make an online appointment and visit the Poea main office in Mandaluyong City, Duty Free Philippines in Paranaque City, and the shopping malls SM Manila and SM Trinoma, Quezon City.

“I had to take some time off from work just for this,” said Jovy Estabillo, 33, who travelled all the way from Al Ain on Monday to visit the Philippine embassy in Al Bateen. “I hope they’ll introduce online processing soon.”

Allyson Dosal, 35, a sales worker in Abu Dhabi for four years, agreed.

“We don’t need to spend money on taxis to get here and be late for work,” he said.

Before obtaining the certificate, applicants must be members of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration at a cost of Dh92 for two years.

They must also be members of the Home Development Mutual Fund, known as the Pag-Ibig Fund, at a cost of at least Dh10 a month.

The process to get a certificate involves filling out three forms – one for each agency – and queuing at different counters to pay. If an applicant’s overseas workers’ membership is still valid, he or she can just apply for a certificate and Pag-Ibig membership.

Roberto Paa Jr, 34, a grocery worker in Abu Dhabi, said he was glad he did not have to queue for the certificate when he arrived at 10am.

“The whole process took only about 30 minutes,” he said.

Last month, Filipinos queued as early as 4am at the embassy’s gates for a place near the front of the line, and had to endure long waits to be serveed.

“At that time we were processing 250 to 300 applications per day,” said Ms Palomar. “Now we’re down to 100 to 150 a day.”

The bulk of overseas workers go home for a holiday during the peak months of March, April, May and June, and November and December.

Mr Paa, who will be flying home at the end of the month, welcomed the government’s move to fast-track the process but was concerned about the risks associated with electronic payments.

“It will be easy and convenient if I can apply for a certificate using my laptop at home,” he said. “But they should provide adequate security features.”

Mr Cacdac said the various agencies already had security features installed.

“It’s not as if we’re entering into this scheme blindfolded,” he said.

rruiz@thenational.ae