Expert warns of Middle East 'deployment crisis' over new fee for OFWs

MANILA, Philippines – A recruitment and migration expert on Wednesday, January 17, warned of a possible deployment crisis in the Middle East because of the controversial $10-online registration fee for overseas Filipino worker (OFW) applicants.

Emmanuel Geslani said that the Department of Health (DOH) should seek the intervention of the Department of Foreign Affairs to reach out to the Gulf Cooperation Council's health ministers before “the slow-down on deployment becomes a full-blown crisis which may ultimately reduce the number of OFWs leaving for the Middle East.

“This current dispute has slackened the deployment of OFWs to the Middle East especially on skilled workers,” Geslani said in a statement.

The GCC Expatriates Health Check-up Program requires OFW applicants for the Middle East to pay an additional $10 registration fee online for the provision of Pre-Employment Medical Examination (PEME). 

The requirement, which migrant rights advocates earlier called a "multi-million peso scam," is supposed to be the initiative of the GCC Ministry of Health, with the approval of the Philippines' DOH.

The DOH, however, denied this in a department circular issued on December 22, 2017.

Susan Ople, head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, had earlier urged the Department of Foreign Affairs and the DOH to look into the "dubious scheme," saying "it violates our laws and also creates grave security problems considering the data being harvested and the huge amounts of money being collected."

Ople had also warned medical clinics and recruitment agencies catering to OFWs about the scheme, which is estimated to earn at least P222 million every year.

ACTS OFW Representative Aniceto Bertiz III had filed a House resolution seeking an investigation into the online registration scheme, which he described as an "affront to national sovereignty and imbued with national security risks." –