MANILA – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Manila has recently underscored the significance of measures proposed to establish a retirement system for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). By endorsing House Bill (HB) 00176, or the Overseas Filipino Workers Retirement System Act, and HB 8574, or the Kabayan OFW Pension Act, the CHR has shown its commitment to improve the living standards of OFWs.
The CHR statement emphasized that these proposed measures – HB 00176 and HB 8574 – are crucial steps towards the government’s responsibility to uphold citizens’ right to social security. HB 00176 advocates for a retirement system that would provide retirement benefits, dependent’s pension, voluntary separation benefits, and a dedicated fund to back these benefits and related gratuities to OFWs.
Similarly, HB 8574 aims to “facilitate social justice and offer sufficient protection to the OFWs and their dependents against various risks such as old age, disability, sickness, death, unemployment, and other unforeseen events.”
Challenges Faced by OFWs
Filipino migrant workers encounter numerous hurdles, including inadequate compensation, wage denial, and job instability. The CHR highlighted that their earnings mainly go towards debt repayments, children’s education, and living expenses. A meager 1% is allocated to personal savings, while approximately 5% is set aside for business capital.
The CHR pointed out that advocates for the bills stress the insufficiency of current schemes in addressing the unique situations and vulnerabilities OFWs face. For instance, the Social Security System, being voluntary, only matures when one is 60 and doesn’t accommodate early retirement nor voluntary separation benefits.
Investigation into Allegations of Abduction
In related news, the CHR launched a prompt response operation through its Central Luzon office investigating the alleged abduction of Jonila Castro, 21, and Jhed Tamano, 22. The young women, reported missing by AKAP KA Manila Bay, an anti-reclamation network, on September 2.
It was suspected that the duo was abducted in Barangay Lati, Orion, Bataan, while on their way to perform relief operations and community consultations. According to statements from AKAP Ka Manila Bay and other environmental rights groups, they had volunteered to study the flooding in the area and the impact of the Manila Bay reclamation on local fishing communities’ livelihoods.
They were allegedly subjected to intimidation and harassment before their suspected abduction. The CHR underscored that this incident occurred just days after the commemoration of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance.
“We call for immediate and exhaustive efforts from law enforcement agencies to search for the missing young environment advocates,” the CHR urged.