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OFW concerns take center stage in a DOLE forum

Cebu City, Philippines. In a recently held consultation conducted by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Department encouraged participating Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to voice out any issues and concerns haunting them. 

DOLE Undersecretary Joel B. Maglunsod, who represented Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III in a gathering held the other day, discussed every concern brought up by participating OFWs, who were mostly distressed and displaced migrant workers coming from the Middle East Region, particularly from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). 

“Ayaw kamo pag-lilpodlipod sa pagsulti ug pag-tug-an sa mga problema sa inyong panrabaho. Do not fear because the DOLE will act on your concerns accordingly,” said Maglunsod. 

The no-holds-barred discussion of OFW concerns, as the Undersecretary put it, tackled various concerns brought up by Connie Bragas-Regalado of Migrante-Central Visayas, which were addressed not only to the DOLE but also to other agencies concerned. 

Apart from the DOLE, present to address specific concerns were Deputy Administrator Josefino I. Torres of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA); Regional Director Alfredo V. Misajon of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR); Mr. Dawn Cruz of the Insurance Commission; Executive Labor Arbiter Emiliano C. Tiongco, Jr. of the National Labor Relations Commission-Regional Arbitration Branch (NLRC-RAB-7); Consular Officer Wendel G. Canque of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA-7); Ms. Evelia M. Durato of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA-7); Regional Coordinator Dexter F. Paro of the National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO-7); and Atty. Janet Abellanosa of the NLRC-7TH Division. 

On the issue of the OWWA’s Relief Assistance Program (RAP) provided to distressed and displaced OFWs in KSA, Deputy Administrator Torres said that they’re now in the process of seeking authority for 300 Million Pesos additional funding, which will be used to accommodate more than 500 pending RAP applications. 

Under the guidelines and procedures in the implementation of the RAP for affected OFWs in the KSA and their families, the OWWA official said that P20,000.00  will be paid to each affected OFW still at jobsite; P20,000.00  to each affected OFW who was repatriated to the Philippines; and P6,000.00  to each family of affected OFW who is still at jobsite. 

The one-time grant, he added, is exclusive for affected OFWs who are either staying in camps or are live-out in KSA or who have been repatriated to the Philippines but have not received their salaries or end-of-service benefits (ESB) from the nine (9) identified companies. 

RAP Documentary requirements will be checked in order to facilitate and expedite the provision of assistance to applicants. 

“The OWWA and the POEA were given instructions to revisit and study the modules covered in the conduct of their Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS). We suggested that it is important to include and explain comprehensively topics on End of Service Benefits, mandatory insurance, rights of OFWs, and other labor laws, among others,” added Maglunsod. 

On cases involving labor trafficking, Ms. Durato of POEA said that they would soon schedule for a seminar or training on the issue in order to establish a unified understanding and appreciation among stakeholders concerned regarding what constitute labor trafficking. “We might also be inviting representatives from other implementing agencies and concerned non-governmental organizations,” she added. 

Other issues raised by Migrante included OWWA’s starter kits or livelihood assistance covering only OFWs who will not be returning to work overseas; delayed approval to resolutions of OFW cases by POEA-Central Office; refusal of overseas recruitment agencies to pay claims of unpaid salaries and other benefits of OFWs; illegitimate recruitment agencies allegedly still in operations; OFWs singing quit claims while still onsite; so-called presence of fixers at the vicinity of the NLRC-RAB 7; and recruitment agencies not issuing official receipts for placement fees. 

“These OFW problems are offshoots of some bigger problems deeply rooted into the system. The DOLE for its part, will not avoid anything such as meeting the OFWs face to face, if only to help resolve their problems. Ubos sa administrasyong Duterte, paningkamutan sa DOLE nga matubag ang mga ya-ngo-ngo sa atong kaigso-unang OFWs,” said Maglunsod. 

He urged the OFWs and Migrante to put all their concerns into writing and put a face on their complaints by providing data and other documents which could substantiate their claims. 

DOLE-7 Regional Director Exequiel R. Sarcauga, for his part, said that having a dialogue with OFWs together with concerned agencies is a significant move in order to thoroughly address their concerns, including those which the DOLE cannot resolve alone. 

“The conduct of the consultation actually came into the picture after Ms. Regalado of Migrante brought up to us several OFW concerns, which we believe we could not address solely. We needed other agencies to take part in a consultation wherein there would be an exchange of ideas, inputs, and possible resolutions to problems faced by our OFWs,” he added. 

The event held on 28 February 2017, which gathered more than eighty (80) participants, will soon become a regular encounter with OFWs as suggested by Undersecretary Maglunsod.

 

End//LSenarlo-Taniza

For more information on this report, you may contact Luchel Senarlo-Taniza, Regional Labor Communication Officer at telefax number (032) 266-2792 or you may send an email at dole_centralvisayas@yahoo.com

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2017-03-02
Elias A. Cayanong
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