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Philippines trials easy exit clearance scheme

ABU DHABI // A pilot scheme to allow Filipinos working overseas to apply for an exit clearance each time they return home on holiday is to begin next month, officials announced on Monday.

Those returning to the same employer and job site and listed on the electronic data base of the Philippine overseas employment administration (Poea) will no longer be required to secure an overseas employment certificate, or OEC, starting on September 15.

“For years, we’ve been calling for the scrapping of the OEC so we consider this as a minor victory,” said Nhel Morona, country coordinator of Migrante Middle East, an international immigrant rights group. “While we welcome this initial step, we hope they’ll abolish the requirement altogether.”

Workers who changed employers or converted their tourist visa to employment visa are still required to obtain an OEC.

They need to make an appointment with any Poea office, processing centre, or at Philippine overseas labour offices.

Previously, all workers returning from holiday had to obtain an employment certificate and present it at passport control before they left the country. It proves that a Filipino has been legally hired and exempts them from the travel tax and a terminal fee at the Philippines’ international airports.

The pilot scheme follows Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to streamline the processes for Filipino workers abroad, Hans Cacdac, head of the Poea, said on Monday.

“It’s in response to the clamour of overseas Filipino workers, especially those returning to the same employer and job site,” he said.

“If you are covered by the exemption, all you need is to log in to your registered account on bmonline.ph and update your profile.”

The worker’s updated profile will then be forwarded to the Bureau of Immigration in the Philippines. This clears a passenger for travel without paying a processing fee.

“We are implementing this on an experimental basis until October 15 just to see how it goes,” Mr Cacdac said.

“So after 30 days, we will report to the Poea board and seek recommendations whether to continue with it, revert to the old system, or further improve the system.”

Migrante Middle East will continue to push for the scrapping of the requirement after the experimental period, Mr Morona said.

On Monday, Filipinos queuing for their exit certificates at the Philippine Overseas Labour office, based at the Philippine embassy in Abu Dhabi, welcomed the news.

“It’s great news but I hope they will implement it soon,” said Gerlie Ochida, 30, a sales worker at a party supplies shop in Dubai. “Those who are lucky to be exempted next month don’t have to take a day off and wait in long queues to get a certificate.”

Many have long baulked at the process when they already have work visas and contracts to prove their status.

“We should be able to exit our country with the least hassle,” said Ms Ochida’s colleague, Regina Romero, 33. “So I think we should just do away with the OEC requirement.”

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(via The National)