Exit clearance nightmare

More than 10,000 applicants for jobs abroad wait patiently in line daily to get their papers processed at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) central office. This is a sad story narrated by an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW).

Thousands of OFWs have no choice but to get an exit clearance from the POEA and, in the process, experience what could possibly be one of their worst encounters with government bureaucracy. Without such exit clearance, the outbound OFW would be questioned by immigration authorities at the airport and not allowed to leave the country.

Most OFWs have no idea that the process of getting that slip of paper—just a receipt actually of payment of one’s POEA, OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) and Philippine Health fees—would be an agonizing experience or that it would take three days.

Upon arrival at the POEA main office, one OFW approached a guard, asking where to fall in line. She was given a number and told to come back the next business day. The guard 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.” The guard added that upon return, the OFW would be given a slip that would indicate an accredited medical clinic.

The following day, the OFW presented her documents including her overseas employment contract to a second floor window. She was then asked if her employer would repatriate her remains if she died abroad. Another applicant explained that she had to return to POEA several times because the macabre addendum had to be stipulated in the employment contract.

The OFW finally convinced the staff member that repatriation (of her remains) was indeed part of her employment contract. It was only then that she was given a schedule to attend a seminar which had to be done in another day.

What followed was a medical exam at an accredited clinic where she had to pay P2,800. (AUD60.00)

The medical exam was far from thorough. They merely searched for haemorrhoids, conducted an ECG (electrocardiogram) and required the applicant to undergo a psychological test which turned out to be more of an IQ test.

Day 3 at the POEA had to be spent listening to what was supposed to be a seminar. But instead of presenting the rights and duties of an OFW, the unsuspecting applicant had to listen to presentations made by representatives of a bank and a telecoms company who spoke about their products. It was like watching a Manny Pacquiao fight on free TV in the Philippines where you had no choice but to bear the commercials.

The exit clearance of the girl in our story was not checked by immigration officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport when she left the country last month.