MUSCAT: The 40,000+ strong Filipino community in Oman is in an uproar after the state-owned Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) issued a memorandum increasing the premium contribution from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Several of the Pinoy-run Facebook groups in Oman in the last few days had been filled with plea urging Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte for its immediate withdrawal and cancellation.
Under PhilHealth Circular No. 2020-0014, OFWs earning betweeen Php10,000 to Php20,000 (OMR 76 to OMR 150+) are required to pay 3% of their monthly salary for the healthcare system effective this year. They were only paying 2.75% in the previous year.
In the same circular, it was also outlined that the contribution will rise by 0.05 percent annually until the premium payment reaches 5% in 2024. A late fee will also be charged if no contribution is made. The circular took effect on April 22, after it was printed in a major newspaper in the Philippines.
The different Pinoy social media groups in Oman with followings between 5,000 to 20,000 shared the same sentiment that 1) the new policy is unfair especially for workers based abroad who will not be able to avail the free healthcare 2) that it's daylight robbery that takes more away from struggling workers and that while the intention of the country's universal healthcare is good, 3) the OFWs should not carry the brunt alone and in such an unfair manner.
The country's Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin also frowned and went against the directive saying that it was not beneficial to the OFWs in any way.
In a tweet, Locsin said, "It's like an income tax which was abolished for OFWs; and [now], even their tax-free income filings were destroyed. They are just totally out of the purview of the government exaction for which they will not benefit at all."
Several online petitions had already gain massive signatures with one petition now having collected more than 300,000 signatures.
"It's so sad what they are doing to the OFWs. They are calling us as "Modern Heroes" yet this is how they treat us," one Oman-based domestic helper lamented.