Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday said that 878 returning overseas Filipino workers were assisted in March 2016 by the DOLE’s Assist WELL Program, putting the total number of OFWS served to 1,187 as of 25 March 2016.
“Last March, 878 OFWs were assisted by the Assist WELL program bringing the number of OFWs served by the 24 processing centers to 1,187,”said Baldoz in her weekly update report on the implementation of the program.
The 878 OFWs were served through the Assist WELL Processing Centers in the National Reintegration Center for OFWs, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, and in the regional offices, namely, Caraga and Regions 2, 4-B, 7, 10, and 11, said POEA Deputy Administrator Amuerfina Reyes, who supervises the operation of the Assist WELL Processing Centers on a daily basis. Reyes said OFWs have also been served at the Centers in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuala Lumpur, and Seoul, South Korea.
It can be recalled that Baldoz had instructed the permanent set-up of the Assist WELL Processing Centers to respond to the needs of returning OFWs who might have been affected by crisis and emergencies. Since last month, 24 such processing centers have been established, and Baldoz had said the centers are meeting the purpose for their set-up.
In her weekly report to Secretary Baldoz, DED Reyes said that of the 878 workers, 270, or 30 percent were from the Kingdom Saudi Arabia while 15 percent, or 136, were from the UAE.
Baldoz added that 234, or 26 percent were served during the Mini Job Fair at the Occupational Safety and Health Center on 10 March. There were 182 OFWs who were served at the Assist WELL Processing Center of the POEA in Mandaluyong and 125 OFWs at the Assist Well Processing Center of the OWWA in Pasay City.
About 88 percent, or 776 OFWs, were documented while 11 percent, or 102 OFWs were undocumented.
Almost 63 percent, or 552, of the 878 OFWs assisted were male. Also, almost the same ratio of the total were factory workers, cooks, welders, engineers, machinist, and safety officers.
A total of 201, or 23 percent of the said OFWs served had complained of contract violation as reason for their return to the country. Of these violations, the most that they cited were delays or underpayment of salaries; contract substitution and non-payment of some benefits like overtime pay and leave benefits. Some 290 OFWs returned to the country because their employment contract had ended; 142 decided to come home to stay in the country; 134 said they were retrenched; 28 to the oil price decline; and 26 due to political/security situation in the destination countries.
The ‘WELL’ in the Assist WELL Program stands for welfare, employment, livelihood, and legal services, which are the government’s interventions at each of the Assist WELL Centers. The Centers are manned by a composite team composed of representatives of the POEA, OWWA, National Reintegration Center for OFWs, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Bureau of Local Employment, and the Bureau of Working Conditions.
Baldoz said all of the 878 OFWs with one, or two, or all of these types of assistance, depending on their request. Some of the OFWs avail of one or more service at the Centers.
Aside from airport assistance and accommodation at the OWWA hostel, the Assist WELL Processing Centers provided the OFWs with legal advice and/or assistance in filing of complaints against their employers and local agencies. They were also oriented about access to and availment of DOLE livelihood programs and job-matching either for local or overseas employment.
“We have referred 185 of the OFWs to 187 recruitment agencies for assistance in deployment as factory workers, welder, carpenter, cleaners, electricians, engineers, and food attendants, among other occupations. There were 29 OFWs who opted for local employment and we referred them to 40 local companies as drivers, engineers, heavy equipment operator, call center agent, and clerks, to name a few.”
In the case of livelihood program, 79 OFWs requested to be assisted in availing the Balik-Pinas, Balik-Hanap Buhay Program; 12 opted for Livelihood Development Assistance; and four preferred to access the Entrepreneurial Development Training.
Baldoz said that the Assist WELL Program has an Internet-based employment referral system, linked to the POEA and PhilJobNet databases so OFWs can choose prospective employers.
The Assist WELL Program, adopted for implementation by DOLE concerned agencies by virtue of D.O. 139-14 s. 2014, is a component of the National Reintegration Program for OFWs and intended to ensure the successful reintegration of OFWs repatriated from crisis or emergency situations.
To implement the provisions of D.O. 139-14, s. 2014, Baldoz issued A.O. No. 21 on 8 January 2016 setting up Assist WELL Processing Centers in 15 DOLE regional offices and one each at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and National Reintegration Center for OFW. The processing centers ensure a synchronized and systematic delivery of the program’s package of assistance consisting of welfare, employment, livelihood, and legal services, or WELL.