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Monday, July 11, 2011

Exit clearance: An OFW’s nightmare

Here is an article from an OFW who shares his experience with one of the most tedious requirements of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

I am now a full-fledged OFW. I share a common bond with thousands of overseas Filipino workers who had no choice but to get an exit clearance from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and, in the process, experienced what would possibly be one of our worst encounters with government bureaucracy.

I was told it was necessary to get a clearance because I already had a work visa stamped on my passport. Without the clearance, I was going to be stopped and questioned by airport immigration.

I did not care that the clearance would exempt me from the travel tax and the airport terminal fee. All I wanted was to be spared unnecessary stress at Philippine immigration on my flight out.

I had no idea that the process of getting this slip of paper—just a receipt actually of payment of one’s POEA, Owwa (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) and PhilHealth fees—would be an agonizing experience.

Or that it would take me three days.

I arrived at the POEA main office just before 6:30 a.m. I came prepared. I had all the necessary documents with me, including photocopies and extra ID pictures. I anticipated a line, but since it was still early I thought I would be able to finish most of the process in just two hours—despite the slow bureaucratic process.

I approached a guard to inquire where I should fall in line. He gave me a number and told me to come back the next day. No, I said, there must be a mistake, I’m here to just get a referral form for my medical exam and a schedule for the pre-orientation departure seminar (PDOS).

“Yes,” he said patiently as he pointed to about 120 people sitting on plastic chairs at the first-floor lobby. “Those people there were here last week and got their numbers last week. You will have to wait for your turn tomorrow.”

I asked if I could just go ahead and have a medical exam to save time. He said no, the staff on the second floor will give you a slip which you’re supposed to give to an accredited clinic. Are you sure? I persisted.

Yes, he was. And I would find out later that that, indeed, was the process. But it was a step that some applicants wisely chose to ignore anyway.

Excitement in the air

The next day, I was back at the POEA, still early. When I showed the guard my number, he asked me to sit on one of the chairs. You will be called later, I was told. It was almost 8 a.m. when our group was finally told to go upstairs. All the counters were closed. Of course, it was not yet 8 a.m. after all.

At 10 minutes past 8, one counter finally opened. You could sense excitement in the air. After about five more minutes, one staff member made an announcement. We were supposed to place our documents in one folder—and we could use those she left on top of the counter.

After several more minutes, the other counters started opening. But I would find out that this did not mean people would start working. That would take several minutes more.

Read the entire article at Inquirer's Website

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