Yesterday, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz concluded her two-day official visit to Singapore, part of her observation and ocular inspection of Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO), with an instruction to Philippine Overseas Employment chief Hans Leo J. Cacdac and Labor Attache Ramon T. Tionloc to work closely together to further enhance the overseas employment certificate (OEC) issuance process, or popularly known as Balik-Manggagawa (BM) online system, which has eased the lives of about 75,000 OFWs who availed of it in this tiny, but affluent, city-state.
“I was here before the BM online system was installed and I saw how long the queues of OFWs obtaining their OECs were. Because of the system, the long lines are gone. What a change! I can see that our OFWs are pleased,” said Baldoz as she observed the implementation of the system at the POLO inside the Philippine Embassy compound on 24 Nassim Road.
The BM online system, which Baldoz inaugurated in October last year, allows an OFW applying for an OEC to do so online, make an appointment on the date and time of his/her own choosing, and print the certificate in the comfort of his/her home, or Internet café, or office without the hassle of traveling to get it, thus, saving him/her precious time which he/she could spend for other important activities while on vacation.
Some 75,000 OFWs in Singapore has used the system since it started, making Singapore-based OFWs the top availees of the BM online, according to Administrator Cacdac.
Baldoz observed that the issuance of the OEC through the BM online system is also faster in Singapore because the POLO has installed an automatic queue numbering system, similar to the one at the POEA.
“This should be installed in all POLOs,” she instructed Administrator Cacdac, also directing him to already develop an application so that the system will be available in mobile phone devices. Among other enhancements, Baldoz said the POEA should already allow the POLOs access to the POEA’s database of blacklisted OFWs and agencies with derogatory records to make official transactions faster.
While in Singapore, Baldoz met with Ambassador Antonio Morales and his officials whom she briefed about the newly-signed “Joint Manual of Operations in Providing Assistance to Migrant Workers and Other Filipinos Overseas”. To Morales, she emphasized the DOLE’s commitment and support to the national policy of “one-country team approach” in the implementation of the Joint Manual under the leadership of the Ambassador as head of post.
She also met with the 330-member strong Association of Employment Agencies of Singapore, headed by K. Jeyaprema, President, reiterating during the meeting the policy thrust of the DOLE on selective and restrictive deployment of household service workers, whether to Singapore or elsewhere.
“We are reviewing our rules and regulations on overseas employment and moving towards country-specific policies. But while we have no ban on the deployment of HSWs, we would like to see more and more skilled workers and less and less HSWs deployed. We ask your cooperation. We ask you to conduct legal and ethical recruitment by selecting compliant partners in the Philippines. We urge you to be transparent by disclosing all the costs required by Singapore laws and we will do the same in the Philippines. At the end of the day, we only would want our OFWs, particularly our women workers, protected,” Baldoz said.
She also toured the privately-operated, Philippine Embassy-supported Bayanihan Center on Pasir Panjang where she was briefed about its operation by its President, Rnavir Kumar Singh, and Director Cristy M. Vicentina. The Bayanihan Center is where the Filipino Overseas Workers of Singapore (FOWS), an auxiliary arm of the Philippine Embassy and founded on 6 May 1992, conduct its 13 skills training courses for OFWs, five of which have been already aligned with the training regulations of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), as Baldoz has instructed last year.
Baldoz, who observed the various on-going skills training classes in the Center, told FOWS President Rosemarie Canonizado, to work closely with Overseas Workers Welfare Administration chief Rebecca Calzado in developing the database of trainee-graduates of the Center, particularly when the TESDA sets in motion its onsite assessment and certification at the end of August.
“We are bringing the assessment and certification services of the DOLE onsite in pursuit of the instruction of President Benigno S. Aquino III to ‘transform all government offices abroad into centers of care and excellence,” she said.
Baldoz also visited in Singapore the Migrant Workers and Other Filipinos Resource Center (MWOFRC) on 243 Holland Road, and assured the 13 distressed OFWs housed at the shelter, a few of whom could not be immediately repatriated because they are involved in various police cases, of government support to their plight. She urged them to make use of their time in the MWOFRC to hone their skills so they can use these to establish their livelihoods and earn income when they finally return to the Philippines.
In her official activities in Singapore, Baldoz was accompanied by Philippine Overseas Labor Office chief, Labor Attache Tionloc, Assistant Labor Attache Merlisa Mendizabal, and Welfare Officer Rosana Siray, and MWOFRC coordinator Rosalin Lavin. Undersecretary Reydeluz Conferido; POEA Administrator Cacdac; OWWA Administrator Calzado; ILAB Director Saul de Vries; and Labor Communications Director Nicon F. Fameronag joined Baldoz in her Singapore official trip. From Singapore, she will go to Malaysia before capping her observation and ocular inspection with a visit to Brunei.