Filipinos ‘not satisfied’ with consulate’s reply

Monday, November 1, 2010
Issue 1154, Page 6
Word count: 671
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The Filipino association, Migrante Macau, is not satisfied with the explanations given by Consul General Renato Villapando in a meeting yesterday, reiterating that they will continue the fight until their demands are met.

Villapando together with Consul Raul Dado and labour attaché Liddy Tañedo met with around 30 overseas Filipino workers at the St. Joseph Church in Iao Hon, to address their concerns regarding the Affidavit of Support (AOS) documents, e-passport fees and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) memberships, amongst other issues.

The meeting, which was supposed to happen last Sunday, was postponed for a week since the Philippine Consulate General said that they had to spend time with the delegations at the Macau International Trade and Investment Fair.

Despite the consulate’s efforts to clear the Filipinos’ doubts, chairperson of Migrante Macau, Catalina Yamat, told the Macau Daily Times when attending the discussion that she was not happy with the consul general’s reply.

The Filipino associations in Macau are urging the consulate to terminate the AOS fee which will cost an overseas Filipino national MOP 220 for each of his/her family members or relatives who would like to visit Macau as a tourist.

Speaking to MDT last Friday, Villapando said that the AOS is no longer necessary by the Bureau of Immigration in Manila as long as the nationals hoping to visit a country or region without needing any visa – such as Macau – can prove that they have the financial capacity to travel.

He added yesterday that “based on new communications” with the officer-in-charge of immigration, AOS is not required except in cases when the national’s purpose of travel or financial capacity is in doubt.

This exception is to prevent Filipinos from becoming victims of illegal recruitment, overstaying, prostitution, human trafficking or drug smuggling, he argued.

Consul Dado also told the MDT last Friday that he has received a memo from the Bureau of Immigration saying that in general the AOS is not needed.

Yamat said that she was not convinced by the consulate’s statement, and she has already requested the consul general show her the documents issued by the Bureau of Immigration in order to prove that what he has said is real.

She added that the consul general had not given her a reply yet.

In addition, in response to the associations’ demand to lower the e-passport application fee to the same amount being charged for applications filed domestically in the Philippines, Villapando stressed to the MDT that it “can’t be [reduced]” since the shipping of the documents to Manila is “very expensive”.

He also pointed out that overseas Filipinos in Macau are not required to apply for the e-passports right now unless their current ones have expired.

Yet, Yamat insisted that they will stand firm on their demand, “we’ll continue to fight for it”.

She said that a Filipino domestic helper usually earns just MOP 2,500 a month, and after paying the consulate’s 3,000 peso (around MOP 528) application fee “we don’t have much money left”.

If the application is lodged with the bureau inside the Philippines, the cost is just 950 pesos or less than MOP 170.

On the other hand, the consul general emphasised that the OWWA membership, which is a form of insurance, is very important to Filipino nationals who are working abroad, as a single payment of MOP 210 with a validity of two years can ensure that “their welfare is duly insured and protected” in Macau.

Villapando also reiterated that the Pag-ibig Fund, that helps Filipinos save money for future home purchase in the country, is stipulated by legislation, adding that mandatory enrollment is not fully implemented in Macau since most of the Filipino workers first came in as tourists.

The fund requires at least one year of contribution totalling around MOP 1,200 so that when the Filipino returns to his home country he can apply for a housing loan.

If eventually he decides not to apply for the loan he can get back the saving in full plus interest, Villapando added.

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