Published 29 November 2021, The Daily Tribune

To institute the policies of overseas employment, and establish a higher standard of protection and promotion of the welfare of migrant workers, their families and overseas Filipinos in distress, Congress enacted in the year 2010 Republic Act (RA) 10022, which amended and further improved the standards provided for in RA 8042, otherwise known as the “Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.”

A significant amendment provided for in RA 10022 is the provision on compulsory insurance coverage for agency-hired workers. Sec. 37-A of RA 10022 provides that “each migrant worker deployed by a recruitment/manning agency shall be covered by a compulsory insurance, which shall be secured at no cost to the said worker.” Sec. 37-A further provides that “such insurance policy shall be effective for the duration of the migrant worker’s employment.”

While RA 10022 aims to improve the standard of protection and promotion of the welfare of migrant workers, the provision on compulsory insurance coverage covers only agency-hired migrant workers. For other migrant workers classified as direct-hired, name-hired, and rehired, Sec. 37-A provides that “they may opt to be covered by this insurance coverage by requesting their foreign employers to pay for the cost of the insurance coverage or they may pay for the premium themselves.”

As a background, a migrant worker is agency-hired if he/she has availed himself of the services of a recruitment/manning agency duly authorized by the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. He/she is direct-hired or name-hired if he/she was engaged directly by foreign employers, without the assistance of any recruitment/manning agency. Meanwhile, a rehired migrant worker is one who has been reengaged by the foreign principal also without the participation of an agency.

Despite the mandate to provide a compulsory insurance coverage for agency-hired migrant workers, the DoLE reported that only 32 percent (agency-hired workers) of the estimated 10 million migrant workers are insured. This leaves almost 70 percent of the overseas Filipino workers (OFW) uninsured, causing them highly vulnerable to various risks and perils of host countries.

Due to the low number of uninsured migrant workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the DoLE issued last 3 November 2021, Department Order (DO) 228, which temporarily expands the compulsory insurance coverage for migrant workers classified as direct-hired, name-hired, and rehired.

According to DoLE, the Order seeks to strengthen the “mantle of protection to all OFW during this current global health emergency crisis at no cost to the worker, and also to other migrant workers based abroad under a residency status granted by the host country if they may avail of such social insurance coverage which is completely consistent with current legislative initiatives bearing and embracing the same purpose and objectives.”

DO 228 provides that the cost or expense for the compulsory insurance coverage of direct-hired, name-hired, and rehired shall be borne by their foreign employers or initially by the workers themselves, subject to a complete refund from their principal upon arrival of the OFW concerned at his/her worksite or country of his/her destination. For agency-hired workers, DO 228 retains the requirement for the recruitment and manning agencies to shoulder the costs and expenses for the OFW’s compulsory insurance policy.

DoLE clarified that temporary expansion of the coverage will be implemented only during the period of the current public health emergency being faced by all countries due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the threats of other emerging infectious diseases. The Department may, however, extend the implementation of the Order for a longer period as circumstances may warrant.

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