An OFW? You Must Know These!

The exit of my father from Saudi Arabia last year was an eye-opener for me and my family. My father has been a long-time Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW). He was the kind of OFW that goes with the flow. He works hard to provide for his family and provide us our needs and even wants. He’s a very good, hardworking, patient, and responsible man and I greatly admire him for it. I’m also very proud of him as his daughter. However, he wasn’t the kind to pour over documents and details, except at work. Ask him what his benefits were as an OFW and he would just shrug it off. During my first years in Saudi Arabia, I didn’t care. I was a dependent then and I wasn’t paying attention to OWWA, Pag-Ibig, SSS, etc. I pay for my OEC and that’s it. But what does it bring me? Do I have privileges and benefits? Of course! Do I know them? Not really. And so it came to a point where I wanted to know now and I wanted other OFWs to know!

So here are the list of every Overseaes Filipino Workers’ benefits from different Philippine government agencies, and even companies that have certain programs for OFWs.

1. Overseas Worker Welfare Administration (OWWA)

WHAT: OWWA is probably the most known agency for OFWs. It is an agency attached to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). It protects and promotes the welfare of the OFWs and our dependents. In summary, OWWA helps OFWs in three major things: pre-departure which educates us of the realities of overseas work, abroad which assists OFWs in our lives in the country we’re working in, and post-abroad when we’re back in the Philippines after our stint abroad.

BENEFITS/PROGRAMS: Honestly, I thought OWWA can only be tapped when we have problems as OFWs. Little did I know what the agency really does and can do for OFWs.
a. Education and Training Assistance – First and foremost, the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS). I underwent PDOS before I left for Saudi Arabia in 2014 as a permanent employee. Honestly, I rolled my eyes a hundred times every time the speaker said something about Saudi Arabia. It was old school knowledge! He was scaring the would-be OFWs to Saudi Arabia. I wanted to raise my hand and volunteer to give the seminar haha. Anyway, the PDOS supposedly gets the OFWs ready for their life and work abroad. It is not an avenue to sell something #justsaying. OWWA also provides training programs for Filipino seafarers. OFWs can also avail of scholarships for their dependents under the Education for Development Scholarship Program (EDSP), OFW Dependent Scholarship Program (OFWDSP), and  Congressional Migrant Workers Scholarship Program (CMWSP).
b. Social Benefits – An OWWA member is provided disability and dismemberment benefits, and death and burial benefits. OWWA also provides the Repatriation Assistance Program. It includes negotiations with employers, agents and host country authorities to facilitate the immediate repatriation of OFWs who are distressed or physically/mentally ill. They are accorded airport assistance, temporary shelter at the OWWA Halfway Home, psycho-social counselling, stress debriefing, and provision of transport services or fares for their onward travel to their respective provinces.  Emergency repatriation is carried out in the event of political unrest or natural calamities.
c. Reintegration Program – Reintegration is a way of mainstreaming returning OFWs into Philippine society. The Balik Pinas! Balik Hanapbuhay! Program has a package of livelihood assistance amounting to PHP 10,0000 maximum consisting of a. techno-skills and/or entrepreneurial trainings and b) starter kits/goods and/or c) such other services that will enable the target beneficiaries to quick start a livelihood undertaking through self/wage employment. The Overseas Filipino Workers – Enterprise Development and Loan Program (OFW-EDLP) is an enterprise development intervention and loan facility of OWWA, in partnership with Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) intended to support enterprise development among OFWs and their families. So yes, you can also get a loan from OWWA and DBP provided you have a collateral of land that is in your name (we already inquired before).
d. Rebate Program – This is something new that we’ve only known because my father has been an OWWA member but has never applied for any benefits from OWWA. If you have exited and retired, you can get a rebate from OWWA if you have regularly contributed to the OWWA fund for 10 years or more. The rules and regulations of this program is still being studied further but my father applied for it and he got it after a few months. As an OFW, always keep records of your membership payments.

HOW TO APPLY: For a US$25.00 (approx. PHP 1,500) membership contribution, an OFW can now be an OWWA member. For first-time OFWs, you can enroll once your contract is processed. For those who are OFWs already (like us), you can voluntarily apply and pay at the nearest OWWA office. You can also ask your family and relatives to pay for your OWWA membership. If you remember before, we used to pay the OWWA fee every time we get our Overseas Employment Certificate but since they ceased the OEC a few years ago, we now have to manually pay for our OWWA.

EFFECTIVITY: OWWA membership, either through the compulsory or voluntary coverages, shall be effective upon payment of membership contribution up until expiration of the employment contract.  The member is covered for a maximum of two years after which the membership has to be renewed.

2. Social Security System (SSS)

Photo from iMoney.ph

WHAT: The Philippines Social Security System (SSS) aims to manage a sound and viable social security system which shall promote social justice and provide meaningful protection to members and their families against the hazards of disability, sickness, maternity, old age, death and other contingencies resulting in loss of income or financial burden. All Filipinos can become a member of SSS. One of the misconception I had when I first went abroad was that SSS is only for employees working in the Philippines when in reality, Filipinos working abroad can also voluntarily play for our SSS.

BENEFITS/PROGRAMS: OFWs are entitled to various benefits and loan privileges, provided qualifying conditions for entitlement are met. To ensure higher benefits and privileges we can continue to pay our monthly contributions until we reach the age of 60 or 65 years old. Benefits on sickness, maternity, retirement, disability, death and funeral can be claimed. Did you know that we can also get loans from SSS? Yup, salary loan, housing loan, house and repair improvement and business loans. As a matter of fact, SSS members who contributed at least 36 months and are active paying members for 24 months prior to the application of loan may qualify for a housing loan of up to 2 million pesos. I didn’t know this! I thought it’s only PAG-IBIG that’s giving loans for houses.

HOW TO APPLY: An OFW with existing SS number can continue paying contributions through SS Form RS-5 where he/she should put a check mark on the box for Overseas Worker and indicate his/her correct SS number. Posting of said payment will change the membership status to OFW. In Saudi Arabia, we can pay through the following outlets:

  • Telemoney Center – PNB and RCBC
  • Tahweel Al Rajhi – BDO
  • Enjaz Remittance – AUB and ABS-CBN
  • Skyfreight (Ventaja International) – Online payment outlet

For inquiries: Philippine Embassy in Riyadh
Roundabout 3, Diplomatic Quarter
Contact Numbers: Tel No. (9665) 54782440
Foreign Representative: DANILO Q CALAPE
Email Address: riyadh@sss.gov.ph

The contribution fee is based on our monthly income. We can pay as low as PHP 550 or as high as PHP 1,760. You can check this page for more information on SSS for OFWs in Saudi Arabia.

EFFECTIVITY: Starts upon first payment of contribution, in case of initial coverage.

3. PHILHEALTH

Photo from MoneyMax.ph via thesummitexpress.com

WHAT: The National Health Insurance Program was established to provide health insurance coverage and ensure affordable, acceptable, available and accessible health care services for all citizens of the Philippines. Basically, this is insurance for all Filipinos whether in the Philippines or abroad. Another misconception I had was that Philhealth is only for Filipinos living in the Philippines. As OFWs in Saudi Arabia, we have insurance here as part of our contract so technically, we don’t really think of health insurance in the Philippines because we’re not there. However, I learned that it’s also good to explore our options for health care insurance through PhilHealth.

BENEFITS/PROGRAMS: OFWs may avail themselves of PhilHealth benefits for hospital confinements and out-patient surgeries in the Philippines.PhilHealth covers over 4,600 medical and surgical procedures including cancer cases and other dreaded diseases. This is beneficial when we’re on vacation or are retired. When we are confined abroad, we can also claim reimbursements from PhilHealth. Members are given 180 days upon discharge to submit our claim documents to any PhilHealth office in the Philippines. Another advantage of being a member of Philhealth is that we can extend the same set of benefits to our qualified dependents. More specific details can be read here: https://www.philhealth.gov.ph/members/overseas/

HOW TO APPLY: For OFWs in Saudi Arabia, we can visit any branch of SkyFreight. Access the electronic registration facility and follow the steps. Download the PhilHealth Member Registration Form and fill it out then email to ofp@philhealth.gov.ph. To check or update your membership data, click here. The annual premium contribution of land-based OFWs is based on the amount prescribed by the Corporation. The minimum current rate is P2,400.00 per year. This can be paid in advance for two years to five years, or depending on the duration of the employment contract with the overseas employer.

EFFECTIVITY: Years, depending on what you pay for.

4. Pagtutulungan sa Kinabukasan: Ikaw, Bangko, Industria at Gobyerno (PAG-IBIG Fund)

Photo from techpilipinas.com

WHAT: I’ve always thought of PAG-IBIG as a loan program for buying homes. However, we now know that more than just providing affordable financing options for Filipinos to buy homes, the Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF), more commonly known as the Pag-IBIG Fund, a so offers a wide range of benefits for its members. PAG-IBIG aims to give a high quality life for Filipinos by helping in our housing needs and giving us an avenue to save. PAG-IBIG became mandatory for OFWs in 2009. But it became voluntary again after a few years.

BENEFITS/PROGRAMS:
a. Savings. There are no taxes for this kind of savings which is given dividends at 5% rate. For example, if a member pays PHP 100 per month, the savings becomes PHP 31, 419.33 after 20 years.  The more you save, the more money you get after a certain period of time.
b. Short-Term Loans. Members can take a loan for their children’s education, home repair, businesses, etc. under the Multi-Purpose Loan Program of PAG-IBIG.
c. Housing Loan. PAG-IBIG’s housing loan can be used for buying lands or houses. It can also be used in building and finishing a house or repair and furnishing.
d. Investment via the Modified PAG-IBIG II Program. This is a voluntary program and solely a savings scheme designed to provide active PAG-IBIG I members with another savings options that has a yield higher than those given under the PAG-IBIG I membership program because of the higher dividend rate. The MP2 has a term of 5 years.

HOW TO APPLY: Registration can be done in the Philippine embassies and consulates abroad. If you’re on vacation, you can also register in the nearest PAG-IBIG office in your area. The contribution rate depends on our monthly salary.

5. One Stop Service Center for OFWs (OSSCO)

Photo from philnews.xyz

WHAT: How convenient it is to have one place for everything that an OFW needs? The One Stop Center for OFWs has been put up under the Duterte government to gather all pertinent agencies for OFWs under one roof. The main center is at the POEA Building in Ortigas. However, there are other offices scattered all over the Philippines. You can check them HERE. This aims to save time, effort and money for OFWs processing our documents in relation to our overseas work.

BENEFITS: The OSSCO houses the following agencies and departments:

  • Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)
  • Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA)
  • Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA)
  • Technical Education Development Authority (TESDA)
  • Professional Regulation Commission (PRC)
  • Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA)
  • Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF)
  • Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth)
  • Social Security System (SSS)
  • Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA)
  • Bureau of Immigration (BI)
  • National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)
  • Commission on Higher Education (CHED)
  • Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA)
  • Philippine National Police (PNP)
  • Bureau of Internal Revenue

Okay, so now that we’re done with the membership programs for OFWs, here are other OFW privileges and benefits that you might not know. We also included some programs by various companies, banks, etc. that might prove to be beneficial for you in the long run.

Other OFW Privileges and Benefits:

Courtesy Lane for OFW Passport Applicants.
OFWs can request to expedite the renewal of their passports at the DFA Robinsons Galleria satellite office or at the DFA Aseana Business Park. This allows OFWs to process their passports even without appointments. We just need to bring the documents needed for renewal, employment certificate, and plane tickets. Regular processing (PHP 950) takes 15 days while express processing (PHP 1200) takes 7 days.

Airport Privileges

a. Exclusive entrance and OFW Lanes. Well, there are a lot of OFWs coming and going in the airport that these special lanes usually look like common lanes already with its long lines. Haha. Anyway, thanks for thinking of us at the airport.
b. Reduced Travel Tax. OFWs don’t pay travel tax and terminal fees when we travel to the country where we work. Our immediate family (wife and children) are also given a discounted rate when they travel abroad. It cuts the cost to more than 50% off. The Privileged Reduced Rate is only PHP 300 for economy class and PHP 400 for first class. Of course, you need to produce documents like marriage certificate and birth certificate and also certificated showing the OFW in the family.
c. Tax-Free Shopping. You all know Duty Free. At one point in your life, you bought a pasalubong in this store. OFWs can shop here within 15 days from the date of arrival. They have further programs like the Balikbayan Plus card.

Other Programs You Might Want to Explore:

BPI Pamana Padala
OFWs are of course remitting our money to the Philippines. What if when we remit every month, we also get free “insurance”? With BPI Pamana Padala’s Remittance Income Continuation Plan, you will get a free 90-day personal accident insurance and a free lifetime insurance coverage. When you open a BPI Pamana Padala account, you get a personal accident coverage insurance worth up to 100,000. Then after your fourth month of remittance, you automatically get the life insurance coverage equivalent to the total amount of remittances sent, up to a maximum of Php 300,000 and USD 6,000. While you remit, you get insured! This will be helpful if you don’t have extra money to get additional life insurance. The free Personal Accident and Life Insurance coverage is provided by BPI-Philam Life Assurance Corp. Learn more about it HERE.

BDO Kabayan Savings
Like the BPI Pamana Padala, opening a Kabayan Savings account with BDO will qualify remitters for free life and accident insurance. You also build credit history with the bank, making it easier for you to apply for a car, home, or business loan in the Philippines. BDO has programs like Kabayan Home Loan, Kabayan Auto Loan, and Kabayan Personal Loan.

Insurance Companies
I wasn’t really keen on getting a life insurance but a lot of things happened to my family this year. I need a life insurance and maybe you do to. Personally, I got my life insurance from a friend of ours who works for PRU Like UK. There are a lot of advantages and disadvantages to consider in going for an insurance company but what I like about Pru Life UK is not mainly their benefits (of course it matters) but because I personally know our “agent” and whenever I have questions, he’s just a message away. So if you’re in the market for a life insurance, then ask your relatives and friends who are agents and who you trust so that you’ll be at ease. They can explain things to you better.

SM Global Pinoy Center

The SM Global Pinoy program under the SM Cares program of SM Supermalls was created with an objective to keep OFW families connected by offering them a place to communicate and bond with their relatives. They now have 31 branches all over the Philippines. I mean if you like shopping… you know you have to be a member of this! Haha! The SM Global Pinoy Center provides lounges and free refreshments, internet browsing, remittance pick-up and foreign exchange services. Just visit any of their centers in SM Malls to inquire and apply.

I hope this entry helps you in any way it can. As an OFW, we should also have each other’s back. Comment down below the things you might want to share to your fellow OFWs! Thank you and you’re welcome kabayan!

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Janelle
Janelle

The Editor-in-Chief speaks 7 languages: Filipino, English, Wit, Sarcasm, Truth, Creativity, and The Pink Tarha.

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