For overseas Filipino worker (OFW), Almedo “Ed” Lopez, being alone in an unfamiliar place is challenging, but it’s the only way for him to support his family back home. Earlier this year, Lopez was directly hired by a water bottling company in Fiji Islands. He was soon deployed on a one-year contract to work as a quality supervisor. Hopes were high for him in the beginning but quickly changed after he encountered several misconducts from his employer.
On July 1, 2021, Lopez responded to a survey sent out by the Abizo OFW App, which he had installed on his phone. The Abizo OFW App is a digital monitoring system that forms part of the POEA’s (Philippine Overseas Employment Agency) OFW Global Monitoring Pilot Project spearheaded by POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia. It aims to track the accurate number of OFWs at any given time, as well as monitor information on their deployment location, employers, and working and living conditions abroad.
Through the app, Lopez narrated a detailed description of his situation in the workplace and complained of several grievances, which include but are not limited to verbal abuse, suspension without due process, forcible “voluntary” acceptance of a 20% pay cut, and 12-hour workdays. On the same day, Abizo OFW App’s response team acknowledged his message and immediately forwarded his case to the proper channels.
After filing a report to the POEA, a meeting for the issuance of the “Notice to Repatriate” for Lopez, spearheaded by Deputy Administrator (DA) Villamor S. Plan of the Welfare and Employment Office of the POEA (WEO-POEA), was conducted. The “Notice to Repatriate” was immediately approved and addressed to Fortune Life Insurance Company Inc. and Fortune General Insurance Corporation, through their partner insurance manager, AAB Management Service, and Insurance Intermediaries Inc., where Lopez had purchased his insurance.
Although Lopez is a direct-hire and is not required to avail of the Compulsory Insurance Coverage for Agency-Hired Migrant Workers (also known as Agency-Hired OFW Compulsory Insurance), he deemed it necessary to avail of the package that was offered by Fortune Life and Fortune General after seeing its numerous benefits, affordable rate per year and access to Abizo OFW App’s features and services. Abizo OFW App’s features and services allowed Lopez to reach out for help from concerned authorities, especially since there is no existing Philippine Consulate office within his location.
During the Zoom interview between DA Plan and Lopez, it was mentioned that a lot of the OFWs’ complaints and reports are being filed with the POEA. Most of them are grievances and requests for help to be repatriated because of cases involving maltreatment from their employers and unfair labor practices being resorted to by said employers. “We’ve received several reports coming from OFWs, through the Abizo OFW App, and through this application, we were able to communicate to our Labor Attaché who has jurisdiction over the OFW’s complaints and make sure that we take necessary actions immediately,” said DA Plan.
As Lopez’s case is covered by the Repatriation Benefit of the compulsory insurance based on Republic Act (RA) No. 10022, which amends RA N0. 8042, otherwise known as the “Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act (MWOFA) of 1995, as amended”, he was immediately provided a return plane ticket by Fortune General through AAB Management Service and Insurance Intermediaries Inc. on July 9, 2021.
Just eight days after sending an SOS notification, through the Abizo OFW App, Lopez is relieved to finally come back home to the Philippines and be able to spend time with his family soon. “I’m finally going home. Maraming salamat to the POEA, the ABIZO Team, and to AAB Management Service and Insurance Intermediaries Inc., representing Fortune Life and Fortune General insurance companies,” he said. Lopez’s costly airfare to the Philippines from Fiji Island (because of the lockdown) was fully covered under the “Repatriation Benefit” of the insurance coverage he voluntarily availed of.
Abizo OFW Pilot Program
The actions and series of events that took place in Lopez’s case is only one example of how the Abizo OFW App and the POEA’s OFW Global Monitoring Pilot Project works wonders in addressing the plight of OFWs, who need critical support against untoward working conditions, as well as other emergencies while being employed outside the Philippines.
Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III encourages all OFWs to join the Abizo OFW Pilot Program, which will be helpful in monitoring their current situations abroad. The Abizo platform aims to empower the POEA, DOLE, and the Philippine Overseas Labor & Office (POLO) in providing timely responses to OFWs’ concerns through real-time knowledge of critical data.
The Pilot Program is a special project of POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia where most OFW issues are deliberated and brought to immediate resolution.
The Abizo OFW mobile app is an innovative solution that supports the long-standing need of monitoring OFWs globally through mobile and social networking technology. The Abizo OFW mobile app tracks the arrival and departure of OFWs leaving and arriving back in the country. It, likewise, allows OFWs to update their contact information in the Philippines as well as in their host country to ensure continuous monitoring during the course of their foreign employment. The platform has an integrated call center service managed by Navigate Global Marketing Asia Inc. for emergency response that can coordinate with different government agencies and international emergency service providers, which help find solutions for OFWs, just like in the case of Lopez.
“I really want to help POEA to spread the information about the Abizo OFW App. I want to discuss and talk personally to other OFWs to get in line with the Pilot Program. I am seeing a big potential with this app that it really can help my fellow OFWs,” Lopez stated the importance of the Abizo OFW App after he shared his ordeal under his former employer in Fiji island.
Additional benefits provided by purchasing the Compulsory Insurance
When an OFW decides to purchase the compulsory insurance coverage, he or she will receive benefit packages that will be helpful for claims, specifically death (accidental and natural), permanent total disablement, subsistence allowance, compassionate visit, repatriation expenses, and emergency services.
The OFW is entitled to receive:
- at least Fifteen Thousand United States Dollars (US$ 15,000.00) survivor’s benefit payable to the migrant worker’s beneficiaries (Accidental Death)
- at least Ten Thousand United States Dollars (US$ 10,000.00) survivor’s benefit payable to the migrant worker’s beneficiaries (Natural Death)
- with at least Seven Thousand Five Hundred United States Dollars (US$7,500) disability benefit payable to the migrant worker. The following disabilities shall be deemed permanent: total, complete loss of sight of both eyes; loss of two limbs at or above the ankles or wrists; permanent complete paralysis of two limbs; brain injury resulting to incurable imbecility or insanity (Permanent total disablement)
Repatriation of the worker when his/her employment is terminated by the employer without any valid cause, or by the employee with just cause, including the transport of his/her personal belongings, will immediately take effect.
In case of death, the insurance provider shall arrange and pay for the repatriation or return of the worker’s remains. 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 documentation, 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.
This Compulsory Insurance coverage is 24/7, while the OFW is in the country of deployment or an off day/vacation leave.
Benefits provided by the Abizo OFW App
Through the App, OFWs can also send emergency alerts, incident reports, update their contact information, and participate in surveys to help the POEA monitor their living and working conditions. Another feature of the app is the Pilot Red Button that generates a simulation of the communication process of a request for assistance with just one tap. This simulation helps to establish benchmark parameters and user experience research.
The Abizo OFW App is brought to you by Advanced Abilities powered by Galileo Software Services, Inc., a tech company based in Ortigas Center, Pasig, established in 2011 to come up with technologies that will help keep people safe.
The Abizo OFW App is free to download via Google Play and App Store. To learn more about the Abizo OFW App, visit and follow their social accounts:
FACEBOOK @ABIZO OFW
Karina is not your ordinary supermom. She juggles her time bonding with her three amazing kids while being in the loop on the latest happenings in the tech and lifestyle scene. Follow me on Instagram (@digitalfilipina) regularly visit www.digitalfilipina.com for daily dose of updates not just for moms but for everyone!