The Balik-Manggagawa Online Processing System is an online facility that allows vacationing Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to apply and secure Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) or exit clearance at their own time and convenience, without needing to queue in at Philippine Overseas Employment Administration or Philippine Overseas Labor and Office (POLO) centers.
Background and Problem
The Overseas Employment Certificate or OEC is a document that declares the regularity of recruitment and documentation of an Overseas Filipino Worker. The OFW usually presents this certificate to the immigration officer at the airport when he or she exits the Philippines. Before, vacationing OFWs consider it a nuisance to secure OEC at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) because OEC application and processing demands lining up for hours or an entire day. This situation turns to worse during peak seasons, when OFWs return to the country to spend Christmas holidays or to attend graduation ceremonies of loved ones, as they are forced to endure incredibly long lines at POEA. According to the Department of Labor and Employment, around 7,000 OFWs flock to POEA and POLO centers every day during peak seasons applying for OEC.
Solution and Impact
To decongest the POEA office from the influx of client OFWs and to better the quality and efficiency of its frontline services, the Department of Labor and Employment and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration collaborated to launch the Balik-Manggagawa (BM) Online System that will focus on expediting the application and processing of OECs by allowing its users to make relevant OEC transactions such as applying for and paying for the OEC fee, setting an OEC appointment, and requesting for OEC exemption via the BM website. The BM Online System is part of the e-Services offered by the POEA. It is open to OFWs on vacation, rehired, or returning to the same employer abroad with existing records in the POEA database. The cost of securing the certificate is PhP119.50. Those without POEA record, under POEA watchlist, have undocumented status, have a change in employer or job site, or who are returning to a restricted country are not qualified for straight online processing and will be redirected to the Appointment Page to choose a schedule and venue for regular processing.
This new system for securing OEC allows returning OFWs to maximize the time and fruits of their vacation in the Philippines without the hassle of having to line up or appear before a POEA or POLO officer to apply for their OEC. They will also experience less strain during their pre-departure at the airport since they will no longer have to go to the Labor Assistance Counter (LAC) to register their personal information. This means that they will no longer need to wait until they are cleared for departure or submit travel documents. Better still, they will be less likely to miss their flight because of overseas employment verification issues.
The system had a soft launch in August 2014. By the end of that year, the system had already issued 78,000 OECs to OFWs and accommodated 11,000 more for straight online processing. In 2015, the number of people issued with OECs peaked at 153,152. In the same year, POEA announced that the processing of all OECs would be strictly based on an online appointment. The BM Online Processing System also started operating in 13 POEA regional offices and 4 POLO centers. Top implementers of the system were POEA-Ortigas, POEA Region 7, POEA field offices in Trinoma Mall, Duty Free, and SM Manila, POEA Region 1, POEA Region 3, POEA Region 4-A, POEA-Cordillera Administrative Region, and POEA Region 11. In 2015, the BM online system was adopted by POLO in Singapore, Dubai, Israel, and Macau.
Through POEA’s BM online team, site administrators and evaluators in overseas posts were able to undergo training on the BM online system to expedite the full implementation of the system at the POLO level. In 2016, DOLE declared qualifications for exempting OFWs from OEC requirement through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Governing Board Resolution Number 12 (POEA GB Resolution No, 12, Series of 2016). Under the resolution, OFWs returning to the same employer and job site with existing records at the POEA database as well as those hired through the Government Placement Branch can be exempted from being required to submit OEC, provided that the returning OFW will register first through the BM online facility before departure. OFWs not exempted from the requirement would still be directed to the BM online webpage to register again and set an appointment at their preferred processing center.