“Indeed, there is a need to continue identifying and discussing major issues and challenges in international migration and to strengthen cooperation among governments and partners, such as the IOM, other international organizations, and NGOs to capacitate migrants and to ensure their safety and protection”.
Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz issued this challenge yesterday in her keynote message during the launching of the International Organization for Migration’s Capacity-Building on Crisis Management and Assistance to Migrant Nationals (C-MAN) held at the Bayleaf Hotel in Intramuros, Manila.
Baldoz, together with DFA Undersecretaries Jesus Yabes and Carlos Soreta; DSWD Undersecretary Parisya Taradji; and IOM’s Ricardo Casco signed a Project Implementation Agreement (PIA) which spells out the obligations and responsibilities of each in the C-MAN project.
The C-MAN is two-year project that seeks to increase the capacity of the government in protecting overseas Filipinos in crisis situations. The IOM will implement it in partnership with the DOLE and its International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB); Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and its Foreign Service Institute (FSI); Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD); Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), and the National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO).
The launch was immediately followed by a joint technical planning session participated in by representatives from the government and private sectors.
Baldoz said that the Philippines, as an “old-hand” in crisis situations involving overseas Filipino workers, has prioritized ensuring the safety and protection of its citizens overseas as an express government policy.
“I am proud to say that when it comes to the protection of migrants, the Philippines is looked upon by the rest of the world,” Baldoz said.
She cited the efforts of the Aquino III administration in ensuring that the rights and interests of the Filipino migrant workers in distress are adequately protected and safeguarded, pursuant to Republic Act No. 10022, or “An Act Amending Republic Act No. 8042, Otherwise Known as The Migrant and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995, As Amended, Further Improving the Standard of Protection and Promotion of the Welfare of Migrant Workers and Their Families And Overseas Filipinos in Distress, And For Other Purposes”.
“This law is the fountainhead of the Philippine government’s policy in protecting and safeguarding the rights of Filipino migrant workers,” she said.
She emphasized that no less than President Aquino III, as the chief implementer of policy, has put in place an Overseas Preparedness and Response Team, a high-level structure that demonstrates the highest regard and concern of the Philippine government for the safety and protection of OFWs. This team is tasked to draw up strategies and programs and formulate policies to appropriately respond to crisis situations affecting Filipinos abroad.
The policy, according to Baldoz, is demonstrated by the efficiency of DFA’s Alert Level System, the principal government guide in times of crisis. “As soon as the DFA issues an alert level, the POEA Governing Board can immediately convene and issue a corresponding deployment ban in the concerned country,” Baldoz said.
“On our part at the DOLE, the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration’s (OWWA) is fully-capable and fully-trained in providing such services as pyscho-social counselling so they can provide these services to OFWs who need it,” she said.
To complete the migration cycle, Baldoz explained the government’s National Reintegration Program for OFWs, under which several measures are in place to prepare the OFW for his eventual return to the Philippines.
“Here at home, we have set up an efficient process of assistance and services provided by the NRCO. We have processing centers in the regions to facilitate action on the assistance and services prepared for returning migrants and their family members, such as livelihood, education and training, and job referral under various facilities and windows,” Baldoz said.
Baldoz said the commitment of the Philippines to protect its migrant nationals is not lost in the world and unappreciated, citing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s speech at the United Nations High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development held in New York in October last year mentioning the critical role that the Philippines has played in securing its migrant workers in times of crisis, which Peter Sutherland, Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations on Migration and Development, echoed at the same forum.