An inter-agency one-stop processing center will be established in Zamboanga City to assist returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Malaysia, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) today said.

The processing center will be operational starting Monday, February 14 even as Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia A. Sto. Tomas is scheduled to visit the center for its formal opening on Wednesday, Feb. 16.

“The DOLE opted to open it two days earlier to assist OFWs who have already returned to the country from Malaysia,” Sto. Tomas said adding an ocular inspection will be conducted during her visit to the center to ensure its smooth operation.

The establishment of the one-stop-shop came on the heels of the expiration of the Malaysian government’s amnesty program for illegal migrants.

Sto. Tomas said the one-stop processing center is an inter-agency effort with the DOLE taking the lead in the provision of various services to the affected OFWs.

According to her, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has indicated the need for the setting up and operation of the one-stop processing center for returning OFWs and those who will be deported from Malaysia adding the President had directed the DOLE to be the lead agency in the operation of the one-stop processing center.

DOLE Undersecretary Manuel G. Imson said representatives from the DOLE and Departments of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Health (DOH), Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID), National Statistics Office (NSO), Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) will be at the center to assist the OFWs and deportees.

He said the OFWs and deportees will be assisted in the acquisition of passport, among other services, to legalize their status and, thus, enable them to return to their employment in Malaysia.

Imson added that the DOLE will also help those who may opt to stay in seeking re-employment, livelihood assistance, and skills training and other options.

To accommodate all returning OFWs, the DOLE will also set-up another one-stop processing center in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi to ensure that the OFWs are assisted immediately, Imson said.

He also reported that 14 voluntary repatriates arrived at Zamboanga Port last Tuesday, Feb. 8, where they were met by personnel from OWWA, and DFA and DSWD. The repatriates are now housed at DSWD Complex for registration and profiling.

Another 213 deportees from Malaysia also arrived in Zamboanga yesterday, Feb. 9, Imson said, adding that although repatriation is underway, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Malaysia has been negotiating with Malaysian employers for possible rehiring of Filipino workers upon acquisition of their legal papers.

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