On Thursday, President Rodrigo Duterte has signed the legislation establishing the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW). The creation of the OFW Department is part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to boost the economy by attracting more overseas Filipinos.
“The establishment of the Department of Migrant Workers happens on the celebration of Rizal Day, when we honor, not only the exceptional love of country of Dr. Jose Rizal, but also the patriotism, excellence and courage of our modern-day heroes, including our OFWs,” the President said in his remarks at Malacañang during the signing of the law and also of the 2022 General Appropriations Act.”
Soon To Rise: Department of Migrant Workers Philippines
In line with this, Sarah Lou Arriola, the new DMW’s undersecretary, said that the various agencies that were involved in the welfare of overseas Filipino workers would be merged with the new department, the Inquirer reported.
“This is not only a campaign promise fulfilled [by Duterte], this is also a testament to the leadership of the Philippines when it comes to migration,” she explained.
Meanwhile, aside from providing welfare services, the new agency will also be responsible for the management of overseas Filipino workers’ programs and employment according to ACT-CIS Rep. Jocelyn Tulfo.
For his part, Taguig-Pateros congressman Alan Peter Cayetano said the new department will help the government respond to the needs of OFWs during times of crisis.
“We have always found it ironic that while our OFWs have kept our economy vibrant with their remittances over the past decades, they have been given a hard time when it comes to their transactions with the government through red tape and bureaucracy,” the former Speaker said.
Senator Joel Villanueva, who authored the bill, said that the new agency would serve as the “home” of the country’s overseas workers.
For years, the overseas workers have been complaining about the various problems they faced when they returned home.
“Today, we make good of our promise for our OFWs to be treated better, with dignity befitting heroes who have kept the country’s economy afloat and their families who stay behind and bear the sacrifice of being apart with their parents and relatives,” Villanueva said.
As per Republic Act No. 11641, the POEA will be the core agency of the new DMW. Its governing board will be composed of representatives from the labor industry.
Meanwhile, the OWWA will now be a part of the DMW and will coordinate with the agency for program coordination. However, it still operates according to its charter.
A new fund, Agarang Kalinga at Saklolo para sa mga OFWs na Nangangailangan (AKSYON), was created to provide legal aid and other forms of assistance to overseas Filipino workers. It’s separate from the ATN Fund and the Legal Assistance Fund of the DFA.
Under the new law, the department’s four undersecretaries will be responsible for various functions, such as labor market regulation, internal management, and international cooperation.
In addition, there will be two offices for overseas Filipinos (land- and sea-based), each of which will have its own assistant secretary.
A Migrant Workers Office will be responsible for the functions and powers of the various ATN units in the country.
Franklin Drilon, the Senate minority leader, secured enough safeguards in the law to ensure that the trust fund for OFWs was protected.
As per Drilon, the OWWA Fund, which has a total value of about P19 billion, will be used for the welfare of OFWs and their families. The law also assigns the president of the SSS as a member of the OWWA Board to oversee the agency’s operations.
As of December 2019, the number of Filipinos living in other countries has reached over 10 million, 3 million of which are OFWs.
It was noted that the Middle East and Asia/Pacific region have the highest number of OFWs, accounting for 83% of the total.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, about a quarter of the country’s 2.2 million overseas workers from April to September 2019 were in Saudi Arabia.
The United Arab Emirates followed at 13.2% and then Hong Kong and Taiwan at 7.5% and 6.7% respectively.
Most OFWs in the Middle East and Asia were involved in various tasks such as cleaning, maintenance, and kitchen work.
From January to October 2019, the total amount of overseas workers’ remittances reached almost $26 billion. It was up 5.6% from the previous year’s figure.
As of November, over 800,000 OFWs have returned to their home provinces since the pandemic started.