Press Release
March 4, 2008

Addressing OFW's health care needs is an utmost goal -- Jinggoy

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada said that all those who lend their expertise to the Senate Committee on Labor's public hearing in line with the proposal to set up OFW Hospital were united in saying that there is a dire demand to promptly address the health care needs of Overseas Filipino Workers and their families.

This developed as Estrada said that the Senate Committee on Labor welcomed new propositions from various stakeholders to effectively attend to health care needs of overseas Filipino workers and their families even as others had expressed reservations on the plan to put up a new OFW Hospital.

"What's important now is that creative measures are being put forward and carefully studied all in the name of helping the OFWs address their health care needs in the best way possible," Estrada said.

Estrada, concurrent chair of Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development and Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Labor and Employment, also said that he was delighted over enthusiasm demonstrated by the resource persons, implying the significance of the OFW's health care problem and their earnest desire in taking part in its resolution.

A paper presented by Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) under Administrator Marianito Roque noted various studies pointing out that "the pattern of illness, injury and death among OFWs and their dependents is somewhat different from the general population," thus the need to put up an OFW Hospital.

Leading causes of death and morbidity among OFWs include cardiovascular diseases, pneumonia, pulmonary tuberculosis, infectious diseases, hepatisis and psychiatric disorders, among others.

Dr. Carmelo Alfiler, Director of Philippine General Hospital, on the other hand, underscored the huge construction, equipping and maintaining costs of a special hospital for OFWs.

Dr. Alfiler suggested that OWWA can enter into agreement with a health institution wherein OWWA can "become the service purchaser and the hospital the service provider."

Another suggestion of Dr. Alfiler is that OWWA can invest in upgrading existing hospital's facilities in exchange for preferential health care for its bona fide members and their dependents.

Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and the Department of Health (DOH) share the same idea of expanding current health benefits package for OFWs. According to PhilHealth, an outpatient package is being enjoyed by OFWs that includes free check-up, routine lab examinations and free medicines (up to P500 worth), health education and counseling in selected DOH-retained hospitals nationwide.

PhilHealth also stressed that they have Overseas Workers' Program where members pay P900 per year as premium and whose benefits can be enjoyed as well by their dependents. And if the OFW gets sick abroad or confined in a foreign hospital where they are working, they can actually reimburse hospital expenses from PhilHealth.

Ms. Rhodora Abaño of Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) raised the discriminatory tendencies of policies in favor of documented migrant workers, further disenfranchising undocumented ones from existing welfare systems.

Senate Labor Committee discussed Senate Bill 421 by Sen. Estrada, SB 938 by Sen. Loren Legarda and SB 1000 by Senate President Manuel Villar.

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