MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The number of registered Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) has reached 6.3 million, said President Benigno Aquino III.
Aquino said this is according to the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) most recent tally. Just 3 years ago in 2011, the Philippine Statistics Authority estimated only 2.2 million OFWs worked abroad at anytime during the period April to September 2011.
According to the Commission on Overseas Filipinos, however, as of December 2012, there were a total of 10.5 million Filipinos overseas. These included permanent, temporary and irregular workers. Irregular workers are undocumented, while temporary workers refer to those whose stay overseas is employment-related and who are expected to return when their contracts end. Permanent workers are either immigrants, legal permanent residents abroad, including those naturalized.
The latest number of 6.3 million cited by Aquino excludes the scores of other Filipinos working overseas who have not registered with the government. (READ: Thank OFWs for PH upgrade – report)
The President made the announcement on Monday, February 10 at the annual Philippine Overseas and Employment Administration (POEA) Outstanding Agency Awards, which recognize the outstanding performance of private employment and manning agencies licensed by the Department of Labor and Employment in providing decent employment to OFWs.
In June 2013, the Country Migration Report (CMR) of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) – an intergovernmental organization that assesses migration movements for informed policy making – released a report that showed the number of OFWs being deployed to other countries has been constantly increasing for the past 3 decades.
According to the report, the number of deployed newly-hired, land-based workers by major occupational category in 2012 included: domestic workers, production workers in factories, professional and technical workers (like dancers, singers and nurses), clerical workers, sales workers, administrative and managerial jobs, and agricultural workers.
The study also showed that Middle Eastern countries remain the primary destinations for over 67% of OFWs. The top 5 destination countries were Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Hong Kong/China and Qatar.
OFWs have been a key driver of the Philippines’ stellar economic growth. Fueling domestic consumption, the remittances they send to their families at home account for around 10% of the country’s gross domestic product. (READ: PH grows 7.2% in 2013, above government target)
During his speech, Aquino said the awardees “show the new face of a government, which takes care of its people who are abroad.”
He said the government agencies that were being awarded are focused on placement fee and salary deduction regulation, exchange of information with other countries on their experiences in job placement, the ethical process of recruitment, and on the reintegration of returning OFWs. (READ: OFWs turned hungy and homeless)
The private agencies that were recognized, meanwhile, were praised by Aquino for not trying to take advantage of OFWs by charging gross and unnecessary fees, for ensuring their salaries matched their skills and abilities, and for initiatives that ensured their progress in their respective careers.
“To all the agencies recognized today: You are on the frontline of determining new opportunities that can be tapped for our countrymen. You have long given jobs to our fellow Filipinos. I expect your service to the FIlipino will strengthen further, and that we will continue to work together to reach our collective goals,” Aquino said.
This year’s Presidential Awardees for land based agencies were Atlantic Gulf & Pacific Company of Manila Inc, EDI Staffbuilders International Inc, and International Skill Development Inc, while the recognized manning agencies included Anglo-Eastern Crew Management Philippines Incorporated and United Philippine Lines Inc.
The awardees of excellence for a land based agency was Abba Personnel Services Inc, while the manning agencies recognized were Baliwag Navigation Inc, CF Sharp Crew Management Inc, KGJS Fleet Management Manila Inc, Magsaysay MOL Marine Inc, Marlow Navigation Phils Inc, OSM Maritime Services Inc, Pacific Ocean Manning Inc, and Sea Power Shipping Enterprises Inc.
Other top performers that also received recognition was land based agency RRJ International Manpower Services Inc, and manning agencies Crossworld Marine Services Inc, Maersk-Filipinas Crewing Inc, and Scanmar Maritime Services Inc.
Of the achievements of the Aquino administration with regards to OFWs, the President mentioned the newly-signed Bilateral Labor Agreements of the Philippines with Germany, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and New Zealand.
“These partnerships will raise the level of our ability to care for the needs of our OFWs,” he said.
He also mentioned the Reintegration Program of the government, which provides training for returning OFWs on how to start their own businesses, as well as allows them to loan P300,000-P2 million to start and expand their businesses.
Aquino said government agencies have also focused on the quick resolution of cases filed by OFWs against recruitment agencies. In the past year, the President said 2,940 of the cases filed by OFWs at DOLE were resolved.
He said while the ultimate goal is to offer competitive jobs in the Philippines, the government will continue to care for its OFWs.
“We aim to expand and develop the economy so that the day will come when the dreams that can only be reached by being an OFW, may also be possible by staying in the Philippines. We are moving closer to that goal. But our efforts for effective deployment of our people, caring for their rights and for expansion of opportunities abroad will not falter,” he said.
In an interview with DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, she also stressed the government would ensure the protection of OFWs in Saudi Arabia amid the country’s plan to impement new mega-recruitment systems that are feared to dictate OFW salaries and have power to “rent” Filipino workers to government and private employers.
“We will never negotiate anything that would reduce the level of protection of our workers. So we will see to it that whether they are operating under a mega recruitment system or under a new system, the level of protection that our workers have will continue to be guaranteed,” she said.
A technical team from DOLE is set to travel to Saudi Arabia to get more details about the new system.
In the past year, however, the government has gotten criticism for mistreatment of OFWs, specifically reports on Philippine embassy staff in various posts in the Middle East sexually abusing and prostituting distressed overseas Filipino Workers.
The Philippines has since focused on tightening policies at halfway houses that shelter OFWs and appointed more females to staff shelters for distressed migrant workers to prevent the alleged sex-for-flight scheme. – Rappler.com