GMA News Online
Pinoy Abroad

Halt to use of Gamca exam for OFWs pushed

November 11, 2008 8:23pm
MANILA, Philippines - A group of manpower agencies has expressed support for the campaign of the Department of Health (DOH) against the “referral decking system" being used by an exclusive group of clinics in conducting medical examinations for overseas Filipino workers (OFW) bound for the Middle East.

“Any act of continuing the practice of medical ‘referral decking system’ is a blatant and brazen violation of DOH Department Memorandum No. 2008-0210 and a direct challenge to the lawful order and authority of DOH Secretary Francisco T. Duque III," said Victor Fernandez Jr., president of the Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Inc. (Pasei) in a statement e-mailed to GMANews.TV.

Duque’s memorandum dated Sept. 26, 2008 said directed all clinics involved to “stop, terminate, withdraw or otherwise end the insidious practice known to as the ‘referral decking system.’"

Duque said that the continuing practice of the “referral decking system" being perpetuated by the Gulf Cooperation Council-(GCC) Accredited Medical Clinics Association (Gamca) is a clear defiance of the memorandum.

The “referral decking system" is a centralized medical referral decking system established in 2001 by GCC states — Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain supposedly to stop the proliferation of fake medical certificates and the transfer of communicable diseases from foreign workers to citizens of the GCC-member countries.

In 2001, the Philippine Department of Health issued Administrative Order No. 5 allowing the “referral decking system" with Gamca-accredited clinics as implementers.

Swamped by protests by manpower and some migrant advocacy groups, the DOH in 2002 issued Administrative Order No.106 holding in abeyance the implementation of Admin. No. 5. In August 2004, the DOH also issued Admin Order No. 159 continuing the suspension of the system.

And on August 30, 2004, the DOH issued Adm. Order No. 167 revoking Adm. No. 5, thus putting an end to the referral decking system.

In his Sept. 26, 2008 memorandum, however, Duque noted that “this anomalous practice still exists and is being implemented by Gamca clinics.

He said the practice was “in contravention and in complete defiance of the earlier administrative orders issued by this Department, and all to the detriment of outgoing detriment of the outgoing Filipino workers which government ha sworn to uphold and protect."

Duque warned that clinics caught violating the directive could lose their licenses or accreditations and recognition by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

In his press statement, Fernandez said that Pasei respects the sovereign authority of the Saudi government and other GCC States to accredit medical clinics that comply with and meet their particular qualification standards.

He said he also recognizes the decision of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia to honor only medical results from Gamca-accredited medical clinics.

However, he said that Saudi and other GCC states “must (also) respect our sovereignty, honor the laws of the Philippines and avoid ‘micro-managing’ the corporations operating within and subject to the laws of the Philippines."

Likewise, many migrant groups and government agencies have previously expressed their opposition against the system.

In the May 2008 meeting of the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, groups like the Center for Migrant Advocacy, Global Filipino Nation, Migrante International, association of recruitment agencies as well as the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), denounced the “decking system" imposed by Gamca.

‘Anti-poor’

Aside from imposing exorbitant fees, migrant groups said that the system makes it difficult for workers in the Visayas and Mindanao regions to undergo the medical exam since all the Gamca clinics are in the Manila area.

Former POEA Administrator Rosalinda Baldoz also expressed her opposition to the “decking system" because of the inconvenience of workers being sent to distant clinics and the unnecessary examination involved in Phase 2 of the medical protocol, where the workers pay for it even they are not sure of passing Phase 1.

On the same note, Pasei said it was seeking the cooperation of industry leaders to call on their members to support this initiative.

Meanwhile, some migrant leaders have welcomed the proposal that DOH will put up its own OFW medical clinic in every region, not forgetting that there is a need for the Department of Foreign Affairs to push for bilateral agreements because of the Gamca. - GMANews.TV