Thankful that convicted Filipino drug courier Mary Jane Veloso was temporarily spared the death penalty in Indonesia, but at the same time apprehensive about other similar cases involving Filipino migrants, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday instructed Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration chiefs Hans Leo J. Cacdac and Rebecca Calzado, respectively, to “sit down, discuss, and design an action plan” on how to strengthen coordination between their agencies and all other relevant government instrumentalities in battling illegal recruitment and human trafficking. She also instructed them to work together in implementing a media program, specifically, a radio or TV show, preferably in a government-owned media entity, such as PTV 4, solely devoted to overseas employment and attendant issues and concerns. “The case of OFW Veloso is an instructive lesson, so were the other cases involving Filipino migrants, workers or not, who had fell victims to drug syndicates, human trafficking gangs, or prostitution networks. Let us, at the POEA and the OWWA, carry out our mandates and do our jobs of helping protect our OFWs,” said Baldoz in issuing her instruction. The labor and employment chief said the POEA and the OWWA should begin the task by strengthening the implementation of all preventive illegal recruitment measures, the first-line of defense for OFWs. One of these is the Pre-Employment Orientation Seminar (PEOS), a free public information service provided to individuals who are contemplating of working overseas. The PEOS is an educational strategy conducted by the POEA for the protection and empowerment of the general public and prospective job seekers. It involves a module that provides general information on the pros and cons of overseas employment; guidelines, legal procedures, and documentary requirements of applying for an overseas job; overseas job opportunities and jobs that are restricted; tips to avoid illegal recruitment; advisories and warnings to OFWs; health and security issues; and government services available to overseas job applicants and hired workers. PEOS are conducted at the local level, in universities and academic institutions, in malls, in churches, during job fairs, and other POEA-sponsored or –organized public events. Some are undertaken in partnership with local government units, school administrators, faith-based organizations and the private sector, pursuant to memoranda of understanding entered with respective institutions. “While I understand that the POEA has focused the conduct of the PEOS in areas identified as vulnerable to illegal recruitment and trafficking, based on the POEA list of top ten areas where vulnerable workers are sourced, or areas where incidents of illegal recruitment are high, we should now expand the coverage areas of the PEOS and get more partners to help or assist us,” Baldoz said. Administrator Cacdac reported that the PEOS has reached 1,063,409 participants between 2011-2014. “This is an unprecedented number in the four-year period,” Cacdac said, adding that in July 2014, the POEA, in partnership with Jobstreet.com., launched the PEOS ONLINE (peos.poea.gov.ph), a web-based facility to educate the public about overseas employment and help them in making rational and wise decision on working abroad. It contains modules similar to the community-based or target-based PEOS. The PEOS Online has been visited by 198,856 visitors since it was launched. Cacdac, in his report to the Secretary, said the POEA is designing an online PEOS for household service workers (HSWs) and for worker-applicants availing of the Employment Permit System (EPS) for Korea and this is expected to be completed by the end of third quarter. “We are, likewise, formulating the guidelines to make PEOS mandatory for all new hires,” he said. Secretary Baldoz said the other preventive measure that the POEA and OWWA should strengthen their coordination and implementation is the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS). The PDOS seeks to prepare OFWs to cope with living and working abroad; inform them of their rights and responsibilities; and provide them necessary information to facilitate travel to, and adjustment within, the worksite and host country. The program, under the auspices of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), has reached around 1.3 million newly-hired OFWs in the last three years. “Some OFWs, eager and in a hurry to leave for their overseas work, may take the PDOS for granted. I urge them not, and I direct the OWWA to monitor PDOS providers who are half-hearted and incompetent in implementing the PDOS. Tighten the screws on them so they will take the PDOS seriously,” she said. Baldoz also specifically said Filipino international travellers boarding flights originating from the Philippines should always be mindful of the prohibited items, either from their carry-on/cabin luggage or checked-in/hold baggage, that the Office for Transportation Security of the Department of Transportation and Communications has itemized and publicized. The prohibited items—153 in all—are categorized into explosives; weapons (stunning devices, objects with sharp points); dangerous articles, including working tools; dangerous substances; and liquid, aerosols, and gels (LAGs). “Be sure to check contents of your luggage versus the items on the list,” she urged. END

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