DUBAI – An official from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Dubai confirmed that they have not received any instruction or information from their main office in Manila, Philippines on the issuance of the iDOLE.
“To date, we have not received instructions regarding the issuance of the iDOLE or its implementing guidelines or procedural requirements,” Philippine Labor Attache Atty. Felicitas Bay told Kabayan Weekly on Sunday, July 16.
Multiple stories of the iDOLE or the OFW card, the unified ID for overseas Filipino workers (OFW), have been circulating on social media since Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III announced that the department has launched it this month.
Numerous questions have been raised by OFWs after the official stated that the ID would be free of charge. However, when some tried to go to the website, it stated that one would need to pay 501 pesos to obtain the ID.
At the official website, https://idole.ph/, it was clearly stated that it was online for testing purposes only at the moment.
“Important reminder. This is a test website of the iDOLE eServices, this is not official yet! To our beloved OFWs please wait for the official launching, rest assured that the OFW Card is 100% FREE of charge to the OFW. Thank you for your patience and understanding,” the statement read on the website.
Many netizens, despite the message on the website, tried to apply for the iDOLE and shared that it wasn’t free after all.
During an interview with Margaux “Mocha” Justiniano Uson, Assistant Secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCCO), Bello assured his fellow Filipinos living abroad that the iDOLE is free of charge.
In a previous interview, Bello mentioned that the OFW ID will replace the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) which he claimed was shouldered by the employers, therefore, the employers would have to be the one to pay the iDOLE costs and not their Filipino workers.
However, his statement contradicted with where the cost is charged to. Thousands of OFWs fired back during the interview which was aired live on the official Facebook page of the Presidential Communications (Government of the Philippines) on Friday, July 14.
“Many of them here [on Facebook] have stated that majority of them have been paying the OEC costs and not the employers,” Uson said during the interview.
Bello once again insisted that the iDOLE will be free of charge to OFWs. He urged everyone to head down to their nearest Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in their respective countries for further information about the ID.
The official mentioned that the iDOLE will be distributed first to OFWs in the Middle East due to the huge number in the region starting August this year.
OEC still needed?
Now that iDOLE is still not fully implemented, many have raised the next question: “Do we still need to obtain an OEC?” Filipinos asked whether they should still get their OECs if they were planning to go back home anytime soon.
“The OEC is not rendered useless or invalid as it is still the document to facilitate the exit of an OFW from the country,” Philippine Labor Attache Atty. Felicitas Bay said.
This means an OEC or an OEC exemption is still honored and valid as the legal document for an OFW to return to the host country where they work overseas.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration website released a similar announcement heeding Filipinos that the OFW ID is currently still not being distributed and to wait for further instructions regarding the iDOLE.
“Habang wala pa ang ID, sa bmonline.ph pa rin po ang exemption o appointment para sa OEC ng mga balik-manggagawa,” the statement read.