Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday said she welcomes the new law governing the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) saying this will further boost the efforts of the government to protect the welfare and interest of OFWs.
“President Benigno S. Aquino III signed into law Republic Act No. 10801 on 10 May. This new OWWA charter governing the operations and administration of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) took a long time coming. We welcome this development,” said Baldoz, who is in Vientiane, Lao PDR to attend the 24th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting.
“The new law is President Aquino III’s “early gift” to OFWs on the occasion of the 21st Migrant Worker’s Day on 7 June 2016,” she added.
With the law, OWWA becomes a chartered institution. Prior to this milestone date, OWWA operated on the strength of Presidential Decree No. 1694 signed by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos on May 1, 1980. It was amended by Presidential Decree No. 1809 on January 16, 1981.
Baldoz said the enactment of Republic Act No. 10801 concretizes the government’s serious efforts to reach out to OFWs wherever and whenever they are in need of help and puts OWWA on a firmer ground as it pursues its mandate of OFW protection.
“More than anybody else, OFW members and their families should be happy about this development,” she said.
OWWA Administrator Rebecca J. Calzado said the men and women of the OWWA fully support the OWWA charter as it strengthens the agency’s operational capabilities.
“With the national government providing regular budgetary support to the OWWA for its operation and personal services, the OWWA will now have more elbow room to devote the trust fund of OFWs exclusively to the implementation of programs and services that promote the welfare of its members and their families,” she said.
Calzado pledged to introduce new programs with the new law, even as she said the OWWA will continue to enhance its existing package of programs and services, such as death, disability, and dismemberment benefits; repatriation assistance; scholarships, skills training and skills upgrading programs, and pre-departure assistance.
She observed that the new law mandates the reintegration program as a core program of OWWA, and places the National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO) under OWWA for policy and program coordination.
She also said the OWWA will strengthen its convergence with other DOLE agencies in the implementation of various OFW programs, such as the DOLE Assist WELL Program for OFWs and the Expanded Entrepreneurship Development Training (EEDT) for would-be OFW entrepreneurs.
“OWWA members and their families will surely benefit more from these programs because OFW returnees can leverage their acquired skills and savings to improve their standard of living through successful reintegration and business enterprise development,” she said.
The OWWA charter allows for the reorganization of the OWWA Secretariat headed by the Administrator to ensure that it improves efficiency of service delivery and boosts its visibility, not only in the regions but also in various countries where there are OFWs.
The OWWA Charter also provides for a wider representation of OFWs in the OWWA Board, with the increase in the number of Board representatives from one to two seats for land-based and sea-based workers, respectively.
One provision of the Charter that is a boon to long-time members is the provision of financial assistance or a system of rebate for those who have been members for at least ten (10) years and who, along with their families, have not availed of any service or benefit from OWWA.
Also, the new law assures OWWA employees security of tenure as they shall be appointed, re-appointed, or transferred to positions under the new OWWA structure with no gender discrimination, no demotion in rank or position, and no diminution in salary, benefits or allowances.
R.A. 10801 directs the present OWWA Board to promulgate the implementing rules and regulations of the new law within 90 days from its effectivity, to conduct a management audit within 120 days, and to submit to the Department of Budget and Management a proposed reorganization plan not later than one year after the audit.