Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday welcomed the result of the latest Pulse Asia Research Inc.’s ‘Ulat ng Bayan’ nationwide survey showing that the issue on “protecting the welfare of overseas Filipino workers has garnered a majority approval rating at 51 percent, or a net approval score of +36, the highest—and only one—majority approval rating in 11 national issues respondents perceived as urgent.
“That 51 percent of Filipinos expressed appreciation for the Aquino III administration’s efforts to protect the welfare of OFWs motivates the DOLE to raise even higher the bar of its OFW protection programs and services. It inspires us some more to serve our OFWs better and more efficiently,” she said, adding:
“Approval rating in OFW protection has been consistent in past Pulse Asia surveys.”
Pulse Asia conducted the survey in September and its result was released on 5 October.
“This is part of the fruits of our pursuit of President Aquino III’s directive to transform all Philippine posts abroad into centers of care and excellence for our OFWs,” she observed, noting that this was being attained amid varied global issues posing a constant challenge.
Various issues such as pandemics, political conflicts, economic slumps, and other safety concerns may continue to hound OFWs, but Baldoz said the DOLE, through its agencies, notably the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs), stand as ready as ever to protect and promote Filipino migrant workers’ health and safety, as well as labor and employment rights.
Currently the DOLE maintains 36 POLOs spread across Asia (11), Middle East (15), and Europe and the Americas (10). The POLOs are frontline offices that provide OFWs a menu of programs and services and maintain and manage the Migrant Workers and Other Overseas Filipinos Resource Center (MWOFRC), a shelter facility and venue for developmental/skills training activities.
Presently, there are 18 MWOFRC in various labor posts: six in Asia; 11 in the Middle East and one in Europe and the Americas. These resource centers provide 24/7 information and welfare assistance to OFWs and other immediate interventions that fast-track case resolution, OFW repatriation, recovery, reintegration and empowerment.
Baldoz said the DOLE had initiated in 2015 the re-structuring of all POLOs, with the creation of additional 162 overseas plantilla positions that President Benigno S. Aquino III has given the DOLE to increase their capacities to address the needs of OFWs.
She also largely credited the high mark on the issue to the government’s efforts to forge bilateral and multilateral agreements and other protective instruments with other countries to ensure the protection of OFWs.
“We continue to engage our counterparts in countries of OFW destinations to formulate and forge agreements that could guarantee OFW labor rights and welfare protection. Recently, we just concluded and signed such an agreement with Taiwan and New Zealand,” she said.
She finally added that the recent issuance of the Joint Manual of Operations in Providing Assistance to Migrant Workers and other Filipinos Overseas boosts and guarantees the protection of OFWs because the guidelines properly and clearly outlines the roles and responsibilities of respective agencies and overseas offices of government in the implementation of a focused and cohesive services delivery strategies to overseas Filipinos, particularly to those who are in distress.
“On a wider perspective, we are also enthused that the latest survey presented an improved approval from the citizenry about the Aquino administration’ determination to address key issues on upholding the rights of OFWs, as well as on promoting peace, curtailing crime, protecting territorial rights, and nurturing the environment, Baldoz said.
The DOLE, together with the DFA, DSWD, DOH, and other concerned government agencies dealing with overseas Filipinos, worked together to put into the Joint Manual very measures, terms, and conditions, the sharing of responsibilities and resources in responding to various concerns of Filipino migrant workers.
“We are seeing a more strengthened delivery of service to our OFWs with this Joint Manual,” Baldoz added.
In the local front, she said the DOLE’s Philippine Overseas Employment Welfare Administration and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration are also doing their fair share of the task, regularly conducting information and education campaign, on such matters as avoiding human trafficking and illegal recruitment, to protect Filipinos desiring to work abroad, and empowering them through learning sessions and modules on Pre-Employment Orientation Seminar, Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar, and Post Arrival Orientation Seminar.
Baldoz said the full-cycle of assistance to OFWs culminates with a national reintegration program implemented by the OWWA and the National Reintegration Center for OFWs, which provides responsive, productive, and sustainable reintegration services to OFW returnees to enable them to maximize the gains of overseas employment, mitigate the social costs of migration, and cushion the impact of forced repatriation due to unexpected events.
“The positive approval rating will motivate us even more to continue building stronger welfare and protection interventions from the gains we have achieved in our OFW assistance programs,” Baldoz concluded.