DOLE to Request Brief Exemption of SSS Payment for First-Time OFWs
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is proposing changes to the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) Of Republic Act (RA) No. 11199 or the “Social Security Act.” The labor agency’s proposal aims to temporarily exempt first-time Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) from the immediate payment of Social Security System (SSS) contributions.
“By that time, they are already earning and could be considered as OFWs,” DOLE Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said to reporters on July 25.
The labor secretary suggests that the social insurance agency must collect the premiums of an OFW three months after the overseas worker’s deployment to their country of destination. He also states that RA 11199 does not technically consider newly-hired individuals bound to work abroad.
Under Rule 14, Section 7 of the IRR of RA 11199, the three government agencies “shall ensure compulsory coverage of an OFW through bilateral social security and labor agreements and other measures.”
“I already informed them of the legal contemplation: a worker, who has not been issued an OEC (Overseas Employment Certificate) is not yet an OFW, and therefore cannot be covered by the compulsory coverage by the law,” Bello said.
“We will issue the OEC with the condition that three months after the worker has been deployed, we will start collecting his contribution,” he added.
POEA, BOPC Backs DOLE’s Request to Defer Immediate SSS Payment for OFWs
Earlier this month, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) recommended the postponement of immediate SSS payment for each OFW as a requirement for the issuance of an OEC until they discuss the matter with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), DOLE, and SSS.
Aside from POEA, long-time migration advocacy groups like the Blas Ople Policy Center (BOPC) rejected the IRR for RA 11199 which requires the payment of SSS contributions as a prerequisite for OEC issuance. An OEC is a document issued by the POEA for workers aspiring to take employment opportunities abroad.
“I hope DOLE will uphold this stand which is backed by the OFW sector,” BOPC head Susan Ople said in her Twitter post.
POEA Administrator Bernard P. Olalia said that the postponement of Rule 14 and Rule 15 of the IRR remains until the Joint Committee of the three concerned government agencies is complete.
“The bone of contention is the incoherence of the provision of Section 9-B of the law and Rule 14, Section 7 of the IRR,” Olalia said in the recommendation sent to Bello last June 27.
Olalia also mentioned that the dialogue concerning the payment of SSS contributions by first-time OFWs “should be determined by a joint committee of the DFA, DOLE, and SSS and not solely by the SSS.” He also concluded that attaching the premiums to OEC issuance is not specified in RA 11199 and its provisions.