Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. Del Rosario; Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz; Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman, represented by Undersecretary Parishya Taradji; Health Secretary Janette Loreto-Garin, represented by Assistant Secretary Gerardo V. Bayugo; Philippine Overseas Employment Administration chief Hans Leo J. Cacdac; and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration head Rebecca Calzado yesterday signed the Joint Manual of Operations in Providing Assistance to Migrant Workers and Other Filipinos Overseas, the document that outlines the roles and responsibilities of their respective agencies and overseas offices to effect a cohesive, seamless, efficient, and effective delivery of government services to overseas Filipinos, particularly to those who are in distress.
In a ceremony at the Labor Governance and Learning Center of the Blas F. Ople Hall at the DOLE Executive Building in Intramuros, the aforementioned officials inked the Joint Manual in the presence of the media, witnessed by officials of the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs of the DFA, Bureau of International Health Cooperation of the DOH, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Operations and Programs Group of the DSWD, members of civil society organizations and non-government organizations, and members of the House of Representatives composing the House Committee on Overseas Workers’ Affairs led by Committee Chairman Rep. Nicanor Briones; Rep. Roy Señeres; and Rep. Leah Paquiz; and House Committee on Appropriations Vice Chairman Scott Davies Lanete.
“Above all, we are deeply grateful to our modern-day heroes, the overseas Filipinos. This Joint Manual is for you: to honor your heroism, your sacrifices, and your contributions. Thank you for putting your trust and faith in us. We will continue to do our best to assist you not only in addressing your needs but also, and more importantly, help achieve your dreams,” stated Foreign Affairs Secretary del Rosario.
“The challenge that lies before us now is to implement this Joint Manual with utmost consistency, efficiency, and professionalism. I am confident of the success of this Joint Manual as everyone here has the interests of our overseas Filipinos at hear. It will enhance the Philippines’ reputation as a model for migration governance. It is proof-positive of our collective commitment for our overseas Filipinos,” he added.
“We at the Department of Labor and Employment are pleased to host this ceremony for the signing of the Joint Manual of Operations in Providing Assistance to Migrant Workers and Other Filipinos Overseas. The issuance of this Joint Manual is another important milestone in our continuing pursuit of program and service improvement for our overseas Filipinos,” said Secretary Baldoz after the signing.
“Our migrant workers today are in a more complex situation. The ever-changing geopolitical conditions in many parts of the world and the pervasive cultural differences among societies continue to bring difficulties in the lives of Filipinos living and working overseas. It is, therefore, imperative for us in government and for our private sector partners to be more purposive and cohesive in our approach in dealing with work realities and problems of our overseas Filipinos. Thus, we expect that this Joint Manual would lead us toward this direction and bring about a higher caliber of government service and program delivery to those Filipino migrants in need of government assistance,” she added.
“We are glad that we are part of this initiative showcasing convergence of government services and resources for the protection of migrant workers and other Filipinos overseas. Ensuring the pyscho-social well-being of our countrymen abroad is vital to ensure that they are capable of meeting the challenges of working or living in a foreign land,” DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman said.
Meanwhile, Sec. Garin said: “We, in the Department of Health, believe that there can be no “Kalusugan Pangkalahatan” if migrant workers and other Filipinos overseas are excluded or left behind. Ensuring the health of our migrants and all Filipinos, whether in the country or abroad, has always been an intrinsic part of the Aquino Health Agenda to achieve Universal Health Care.
She said Phil-Health’s Overseas Filipinos Program has been actively working towards the goal of expanding enrolment and improving benefits for overseas Filipinos.
“However, addressing migrant health needs a collective effort, not just from the DOH, but from all sectors involved in migration. Thus, this Joint Manual is an affirmation of the DOH’s position on taking the whole of government and whole of society approach in promoting the health of our migrants and overseas Filipinos, including their families,” she added.
Two years in the making, the Joint Manual of Operations in Providing Assistance to Migrant Workers and Other Filipinos Overseas was developed consistent with the directive of President Aquino III to transform Philippine missions abroad into Centers of Care and Excellence for Overseas Filipinos.
It is only under the present administration that the DFA, DOLE, DSWD, DOH, and other concerned government agencies dealing with overseas Filipinos worked together to put into a single document very clear and specific terms the sharing of responsibilities and resources in responding to various concerns of Filipino migrant workers.
The Joint Manual, which has obtained the endorsement and approval of the House of Representatives through the Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, is comprehensive in its breadth and depth, and covers almost every conceivable situation migrant Filipinos may find themselves in while abroad. It provides clear and concise step-by-step processes, lines of accountabilities, modes of reporting and coordination, and even specific timelines and sharing of resources and obligations.
It can be recalled that the Joint Manual was drafted in response to the request of Rep. Señeres for the DFA and the DOLE to come up with a common or consolidated Work Plan and Manual of Operations, as well as to the request of Rep. Paquiz to develop a comprehensive standard protocol for assisting OFWs.
The HCOWA, chaired by Rep. Briones, approved the Joint Manual last June 10 after a series of consultations between the HCOWA and concerned executive departments. Civil society organizations and non-government organizations, such as the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, Center for Migrants Advocacy, Global Filipino Movement Foundation, Inc., and the OFW Family Club the HCOWA, also participated in the drafting of the Joint Manual and provided inputs.
The Joint Manual, which immediate takes effect upon its signing, shall be jointly reviewed and revised after three years and every three years thereafter.