House Panel Discusses Bills to Protect and Revamp OFW Remittances in the Philippines
The House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs acquired positive momentum in the initial deliberations of House Bills (HB) 185, 1190, 2944, 3020, 4170, 4257, 4343, 4397, and 4469. Which all seek to protect the remittances of OFWs.
Kabayan party-list Representative Ron Salo stated that the mentioned bills ask for a 50% discount on remittance fees, which would also mean tax deductions for the remittance providers.
Tarlac 2nd District Rep. Christian Tell Yap, author of HB 1190, brought up that there are service providers who weren’t able to inform OFWs about the money-transfer fees when sending money to their families.
Yap noted that his proposal would require financial institutions to disclose their service charges to ensure compliance with proper and just practices under the law.
Yap mentioned that OFWs significantly contribute to the Philippine economy through their remittances. In addition, he cited that the measure would help protect the financial welfare of OFWs and sustain the country’s economic growth.
For his part, Rep. Antonio Legarda Jr. of the lone district of Antique, author of HB 3020, noted that the measure would forbid any charges imposed if there is no prior consultation with the Department of Finance and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
The committee approved the development of the nine bills and the consideration of position papers to be submitted by concerned agencies and organizations in crafting the substitute bill.
Meanwhile, solons tackled HBs 365, 1188, and 3378, which seeks to create a credit assistance program for OFWs.
Cavite 2nd District Rep. Lani Mercado-Revilla stated in her sponsorship speech for HB 3378 that the bill would allow prospective OFWs with a valid contract certified by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to apply for a loan for up to ₱50,000 coming from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
Moreover, she cited that this is to cover their families’ living expenses at the beginning of their employment and other budget consumption during pre-employment.
Valenzuela City 1st District Rep. Rex Gatchalian, the author of HB 4379, pointed out the need to promote the economic well-being of OFWs and their families by educating them about protecting their hard-worked money through financial literacy.
Gatchalian mentioned, “Our OFWs are called modern-day heroes because they contribute to the economic growth of our country through their remittances and, most importantly, their personal sacrifices to give their family a comfortable life despite fighting homesickness.”
Under the proposed bill by Gatchalian, bank and non-bank financial intermediaries may charge remittance fees “subject to a 50-percent discount.”
All financial intermediaries offering remittance services must also post the Philippine peso equivalent of the foreign currencies within the establishment’s premises. They are also forbidden to raise their charges without prior consultation with the Department of Finance (DOF), Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
Other restricted acts under the measure are:
- Misappropriation or conversion of foreign exchange remittances
- Taking foreign exchange remittances without the consent of the OFW or beneficiary
- Imposition of remittance fees higher than those prescribed by the measure.
Gatchalian noted, “At the same time, the DOF, together with the BSP, POEA, and other concerned agencies, shall ensure that a mandatory financial education program will be provided to OFWs and their families to help ensure a source of livelihood even after their overseas employment.”
The program must incorporate instructions on financial management, budgeting, investment options, and similar topics, which ought to teach OFWs and their families the proper handling of their earnings and remittances.