The House of Representatives of the Philippines has passed the Senate version of a bill creating the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), which would handle all migrant worker issues and concerns in one place.
According to a report posted on the Philippine News Agency on December 15, 2021, the adoption of this unified agency department will help Overseas Filipino Workers abroad to have a single entity to ask for assistance for migrant worker concerns.
As of the moment, there are a number of Philippine government agencies handling concerns and programs for OFWs, such as POEA, POLO, DOLE, OWWA, etc. But with this new department, all of these agencies will be consolidated under one roof, making it more efficient and easier for OFWs to seek help.
OFW Department for the Protection of Filipino Migrant Workers
If the House version is approved, the two chambers will no longer hold a bicameral conference committee meeting and the bill will be given to Malacañang for President Duterte’s signature.
The initiative seeks to combine the offices that cater to the needs of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) into a single unified department, which was certified urgent by Malacañang in May. The proposed department will orchestrate all efforts and policies for the protection of OFWs under the bill.
POEA to serve as the backbone of 7 OFW department offices
The proposed department, which will be the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) under the Duterte administration’s plan, would absorb the functions and duties of the present agency.
7 offices to be merged will include the following government agencies:
- DFA-OUMWA – Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs
- POEA – Philippine Overseas Employment Administration
- POLO – Philippine Overseas Labor Office
- ILAB – International Labor Affairs Bureau
- NRCO – National Reintegration Center for OFWs
- NMP – National Maritime Polytechnic
- Office of the Social Welfare Attache of DSWD
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) will be an attached agency of the new department.
Current System for OFW Concerns is Currently Disorganized
OFW issues are handled on an impromptu basis at the moment, and this is done in a disorganized manner across the Philippine embassies and consulates. With the establishment of an office and a mechanism for assisting OFWs in the countries where they reside, OFWs can be more confident that they are not alone in these nations.
The decision of the House to follow the Senate version is a Christmas present for overseas workers and seamen, as well as their families and the entire Filipino nation, according to the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) Party-list.
The bill is expected to be signed into law by Philippine President Duterte.
Once this OFW department is set up, it will be easier for OFWs to seek assistance from the Philippine government.
Why Would Government Set Up an OFW Department?
Currently, it is very hard for Overseas Filipinos Workers to get help from the government when they have concerns about their employment abroad. Most of these concerns would have already been mitigated if only the said OFWs could easily reach an agency that helps them deal with such issues.
If a law creating a department for OFWs is passed and becomes effective, then this problem will definitely be resolved without fail. This means that our countrymen working on foreign soil can have one of their concerns about employment taken care of promptly.
However, the Department for OFWs does not only mean assistance in times of crisis alone. It can also be used as a medium to facilitate the advancement and development of Filipino workers working abroad. This will be done by ensuring that they are treated fairly and that they receive all the benefits which they deserve as laborers under an employer.
The creation of this department can basically serve as a platform where all problems related to overseas employment especially those pertaining to the protection on the rights and welfare of OFWs can easily be resolved without delay. The new national agency will make sure that representatives of OFWs will be able to voice out legitimate concerns or issues on behalf of these people who sacrifice so much for their families back home.
It would be a great help for our countrymen working abroad if the Duterte administration’s promise of an OFW department will soon be turned into a reality. This new department will serve as their refuge in cases of abuse and maltreatment by their employers. It will also pave way for better opportunities for the development and advancement of Filipino workers.