The compulsory insurance coverage for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), including seafarers, was primarily designed for the protection of the interests and welfare of the worker s and their families.
Section 37-A of Republic Act No. 8042, as amended by RA No. 10022, otherwise known as “Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995,” states that each migrant worker, including seafarers, deployed by a recruitment or manning agency shall be covered by a compulsory insurance policy which shall be secured at no cost to the said worker, which shall remain valid during the duration of the employment and shall cover:
(1) accidental death
(2) natural death
(3) permanent total disablement
(4) repatriation cost
(5) subsistence allowance
(6) money claims
(7) compassionate visit
(8) medical evacuation, and
(9) medical repatriation.
With respect to an OFW’s untimely death, the minimum insurance benefits payable to his beneficiaries shall include:
(a) at least fifteen thousand United States dollars (US$15,000) for accidental death, or
(b) at least ten thousand United States dollars (US$10,000) for natural death.
The insurance provider shall likewise arrange and pay for the repatriation of the worker’s remains and belongings.
The insurance provider shall also render any assistance necessary in the transport, including but not limited to:
* locating a local and licensed funeral home, mortuary or direct disposition facility to prepare the body for transport
* completing all documentations
* obtaining legal clearances
* procuring consular services
* providing death certificates
* purchasing the minimally necessary casket or air transport container, as well as transporting the remains including retrieval from site of death and delivery to the receiving funeral home and back to the residence of the worker in the Philippines or to any place in the Philippines in accordance with the worker’s will, if there is any.
The extent of the said benefits shall be regardless of the cost, the primary test of compliance being the complete repatriation of the worker’s remains and his personal belongings.
Under the law, any claim arising from accidental death, natural death or permanent total disablement shall be paid without the necessity of proving fault or negligence of any kind on the part of the migrant worker.
In the case of work-related death of the seafarer, during the term of his Philippine Overseas Workers Administration (POEA)-approved contract, the employer shall pay his beneficiaries the Philippine Currency equivalent to the amount of US$50,000 and an additional amount of US$7,000 to each child under the age of 21 years old but not exceeding four children. The amount usually is higher if the death is covered by a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
The POEA contract defined “work-related injury” as “injury(ies) resulting in disability or death arising out of and in the course of employment” and “work-related illness” as “any sickness resulting to disability or death as a result of an occupational disease listed under Section 32-A of the contract.
The insurer must pay the seafarer’s beneficiaries initially the amount of US$15,000 for accidental death or US$10,000 for natural death during the contract in the event that there is a legal issue whether or not the nature of the death is work-related, such as in cases of suicide, since there is no necessity of proving fault or negligence of any kind on the part of the seafarer.
However, Migrante Hong Kong is campaigning against the implementation of the OFW compulsory insurance. They noted that Hong Kong employers are already required by law to get insurance for their domestic workers. If they don’t get one, and something happens to their worker, employers will be liable and must make sure that they will be responsible for the expenses.
Migrante argues that the new mandatory insurance order will just add to the list of expenses that employers are made to pay for and will merely increase friction between the employer and worker, and might lead to non-rehiring.
Atty. Dennis Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 09175025808 or 09088665786)./PN