How a mobile app saved an OFW from abusive employer in Fiji

Jan Milo Severo (Philstar.com) 

A mobile app played a major role in saving an overseas Filipino worker in Fiji Islands. 

OFW Almedo Lopez was directly hired by Pleass Global Limited, a water bottling company in Namosa, Suva, Fiji Islands. He was soon deployed for a one-year contract to work as a quality supervisor.

However, high hopes were quickly changed after he encountered several misconduct from his employer. 

On July 1, Lopez responded to a survey sent out by the Abizo OFW app, which he installed on his phone.

The Abizo OFW app, a digital monitoring system is part of the POEA’s (Philippine Overseas Employment Agency) OFW Global Monitoring Pilot Project spearheaded by POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia, which 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.

Through the app, Lopez narrated a detailed description about his situation in the workplace and made several complaints, which include but 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, the response team of the Abizo OFW acknowledged his message and immediately forwarded his case to the proper channels.

A meeting for the issuance of the “Notice to Repatriate” for Lopez, spearheaded by Deputy Administrator Villamor Plan of the Welfare and Employment Office of the POEA, was conducted after filling the report. 

The “Notice to Repatriate” was immediately approved and addressed to Fortune Life Insurance Company Inc. and Fortune General Insurance Corp. through their partner insurance manager AAB Management Service and Insurance Intermediaries Inc., where Lopez 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 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 that allowed him to reach out for help to concerned authorities, especially since there is no Philippine Embassy office in his location.

During the Zoom interview between DA Plan and Lopez, it was mentioned that many of OFWs’ complaints and reports were filed in the POEA. Most of these are grievances, asking help to be repatriated because of employers’ maltreatment and unfair labor practices. 

“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.

Since Lopez’s case is covered by the repatriation benefit of the compulsory insurance based on Republic Act No. 10022, which amends RA N0. 8042, otherwise known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, he was immediately provided a return plane ticket by Fortune General thru AAB Management Service and Insurance Intermediaries Inc. on July 9, 2021.

“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.

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