“It is only under the new law that the requirement to negotiate bilateral employment contracts as a DoLE, DFA and SSS company is mandatory,” she said. The renegotiated agreement also provides for the possibility for OFW to repay their NPS contributions at the end of their overseas employment contract, under the same conditions for Korean nationals. SSS President and Director General Emmanuel F. Dooc said that one of the measures proposed under Senate Act 1753, which seeks to amend the charter of the 21-year-old pension fund, is mandatory coverage of OFWs around the world to protect them from the risks of contingencies. “According to the latest statistics, there are more than two million OFWs in the world, but only more than 583,000 actively pay their monthly SSS contributions. With the help of Sen. Richard Gordon, our SS champion in the Senate, our goal is to ensure that all Filipinos in and out of the country are protected under the SSS,” said Dooc. “And we are also aware that this goal on our part is not as simple as it seems. This means a huge job for us and for partner agencies like DFA and DOLE, the OFWs beaufftelt. We will work closely with them to fulfill the mandate of the SSS and ensure that we implement the law in the near future,” added Mr. Dooc.
During the senate inquiry, Senator Gordon ensured that mandatory OFW coverage was properly implemented by the SSS because they work hand-in-hand with other government agencies. Gordon, along with pension fund officials, said that one way to implement it was to strengthen bilateral agreements with different countries around the world. “There are only 13 states that have agreed to have a contract with us to cover all workers, but that shouldn`t stop us. Today we have 13, tomorrow, 15, your honor. Next year, we could have 17, and that shouldn`t stop the State Department and our DOLE. And we should all always commit to protecting all the workers in the world,” Gordon said. To date, the Philippines, as negotiators in the Netherlands, has already concluded 13 bilateral social security agreements with Austria, the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Spain, France, Canada, Quebec, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, Portugal, Germany and Japan. Gordon considered the proposed measure to be a pioneering bill because it will enable the SSS to achieve its goal of universal coverage. In November 2019, the Philippines signed a new SSA with South Korea, which is being ratified by the presidency.
In addition, SSS is negotiating and exploring the possibility of concluding a bilateral agreement with Greece, the Czech Republic, India, Thailand and Vietnam. It also aims to conclude a bilateral agreement with the United States, Australia, Italy, Norway and Cyprus, which are among the top destinations in the Philippines. The Act charges the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), including its affiliated agencies, to “negotiate bilateral labour agreements with the host countries of the OFW to ensure that employers of terrestrial OFW, like the principal officials of the Marine OFW, pay the necessary SSS dues, in which case these terrestrial OFWs are no longer considered independent in the same way.