Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Monday called for the suspension of the provision in the Universal Health Care (UHC) law on the increase in premium payments for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

“I call for the suspension of Section 10.2.C of the IRR (implementing rules and regulations) of the UHC law in light of COVID-19 and its economic impact on OFWs,” Duque said in a tweet.

Duque said the Department of Health would discuss and recommend the matter to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

“Meanwhile, we will reach out again to our stakeholders on this,” Duque said.

PhilHealth, which is attached to the DOH, recently issued a circular increasing the premium payments of OFWs whose monthly income ranged from P10,000 to P60,000 to 3% of their monthly salary starting this year. The state-insurer said this is stated in the Universal Health Care Law, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last year.

An online petition on has since been mounted to repeal the measure, given the effects of the global health crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic.

PhilHealth, in response to the controversy, said it up to Congress, which resumes session on Monday, to review the hike in OFW premium payments. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who authored the bill when he was a party-list lawmaker, said the part about increasing OFW premium payments was not included in his bill.

PhilHealth President Ricardo Morales, in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV, said President Rodrigo Duterte will address the issue following the protests of OFWs.

Morales, however, clarified that PhilHealth was not forcing OFWs to comply with the hike, especially now that there is a health crisis worldwide.