FOR overseas Filipino worker (OFW), Almedo “Ed” Lopez, being alone in an unfamiliar place is challenging, but it’s the only way for him to support his family back home. Earlier this year, Lopez was directly hired by a water bottling company in Fiji Islands. He was soon deployed on a one-year contract to work as a quality supervisor. Hopes were high for him in the beginning, but quickly changed after he encountered several misconducts from his employer.
On July 1, 2021, Lopez responded to a survey sent out by the Abizo OFW App, which he had installed on his phone. The Abizo OFW App is a digital monitoring system that forms part of the POEA’s (Philippine Overseas Employment Agency) OFW Global Monitoring Pilot Project spearheaded by POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia. It aims to track the accurate number of OFWs at any given time, as well as monitor information on their deployment location, employers, and working and living conditions abroad.
Through the app, Lopez narrated a detailed description about his situation in the workplace and complained of several grievances, which include but are not limited to verbal abuse, suspension without due process, forcible “voluntary” acceptance of a 20% pay cut, and 12-hour workdays. On the same day, Abizo OFW App’s response team acknowledged his message and immediately forwarded his case to the proper channels.
After filing a report to the POEA, a meeting for the issuance of the “Notice to Repatriate” for Lopez, spearheaded by Deputy Administrator (DA) Villamor S. Plan of the Welfare and Employment Office of the POEA (WEO-POEA), was conducted. The “Notice to Repatriate” was immediately approved and addressed to Fortune Life Insurance Company Inc. and Fortune General Insurance Corporation, through their partner insurance manager, AAB Management Service and Insurance Intermediaries Inc., where Lopez had purchased his insurance.
Although Lopez is a direct hire and is not required to avail of the Compulsory Insurance Coverage for Agency-Hired Migrant Workers (also known as Agency-Hired OFW Compulsory Insurance), he deemed it necessary to avail of the package that was offered by Fortune Life and Fortune General after seeing its numerous benefits, affordable rate per year and access to Abizo OFW App’s features and services. Abizo OFW App’s features and services allowed Lopez to reach out for help from concerned authorities, especially since there is no existing Philippine Consulate office within his location.
During the Zoom interview between DA Plan and Lopez, it was mentioned that a lot of the OFWs’ complaints and reports are being filed with the POEA. Most of them are grievances and requests for help to be repatriated because of cases involving maltreatment from their employers and unfair labor practices being resorted to by said employers. “We’ve received several reports coming from OFWs, through the Abizo OFW App, and through this application we were able to communicate to our Labor Attaché who has jurisdiction over the OFW’s complaints and make sure that we take necessary actions immediately,” said DA Plan.
Just eight days after sending an SOS notification, through the Abizo OFW App, Lopez is relieved to finally come back home to the Philippines and be able to spend time with his family soon. “I’m finally going home. Maraming salamat to the POEA, the ABIZO Team, and to AAB Management Service and Insurance Intermediaries Inc., representing Fortune Life and Fortune General insurance companies,” he said. Lopez’s costly airfare to the Philippines from Fiji Island (because of the lockdown) was fully covered under the “Repatriation Benefit” of the insurance coverage he voluntarily availed of.