(STAR) By Mayen Jaymalin - The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) is set to adopt a flexible exchange rate as basis for setting the amount of the membership fee collected from Filipino workers leaving for jobs abroad.

OWWA chief Marianito Roque said the OWWA board has approved Resolution No. 38 providing a mechanism for determining the peso equivalent of the $25 membership fee.

“We recognized the volatility of the peso-dollar exchange rate so starting Jan. 1 we would be using a flexible rate based on the preceding month’s average,” Roque explained.

“This means that OWWA on Jan. 1 will be recognizing the monthly average dollar exchange rate in December 2007 as basis in the collection of fees,” Roque added.

Roque said the OWWA resolution also provides a mechanism that would extend for three months the insurance coverage for overseas workers who were overcharged by P225.

“Instead of refunding the P225, OWWA decided to extend the insurance coverage to members for three months, which means they are entitled to credit of 27 months insurance coverage,” he said.

Roque said the credit system would benefit only the OFWs whose contracts were processed from January to Dec. 20, 2007 and who paid the membership fee based on the P51 to a dollar exchange rate.

But starting today until next week, Roque said, OWWA would be collecting fees based on P42 to $1 exchange rate.

Earlier, the local recruitment industry urged OWWA to adopt a flexible exchange rate in the charging of membership fees. Overseas Filipino workers earlier accused the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) of basing the membership fee on the P51:$1 exchange rate, but POEA said it’s OWWA that sets the fee.

Gov’t urged to take steps to bring exchange rate back to P46:$1 By Ma. Elisa P. Osorio Friday, December 21, 2007

The government must do something in order to move the exchange rate back to 46-to-a-dollar, a consumer watchdog said yesterday.

“We are losing our competitiveness in terms of exporting because our currency is strongest in the region,” Raul T. Concepcion, chairman of the Consumer and Oil Price Watch told reporters in an interview yesterday.

According to Concepcion, the current exchange rate is too low for exporters to make money.

Concepcion said the ideal exchange rate is anywhere between 45 to 46 to a dollar. “The exporters will be happy with this figure and it is not too high to make goods expensive.”

­“The peso is down why are prices not down as well,” he asked.

To make matters worse, Concepcion said prices of sugar, milk and rice are expected to rise next year.

He said the government must put a cap on the peso dollar exchange rate in order to avoid volatility which causes businessmen to stop investing in the country.

“I think that somehow or another, the central bank will have to intervene and maybe increase the interest rates and put some sort of cap on the peso,” Concepcion said.

As an exporter himself, Concepcion said his company has been losing money ever since the peso started to gain strength against the dollar.

”You can not continue to have those rates. It’s going to affect exports, it’s going to affect competitiveness, it’s going to affect remittances of overseas workers,” Concepcion explained.

“Sure the consumer is happy because the peso has appreciated, but that’s short run,” he explained.

The strong peso is causing exporters to absorb billions in losses each month as locally-made goods become more expensive to foreign buyers.

“We are losing P4.5 billion every month ever since the peso grew stronger,” Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport) president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said in an interview.

Ortiz-Luis said the multi-billion losses come from foregone orders and other missed opportunities. The exporter said the industry is already taking a beating as the peso continues to gain strength.

“I don’t know how to react. We are all affected. A number of small and medium sized firms have even stopped taking orders,” Ortiz-Luis lamented.

Ortiz-Luis explained some small and medium sized exporters resorted to cutting orders to cope with the peso dollar exchange rate.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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