How presidential bets plan to empower OFWs

Don Kevin Hapal
How presidential bets plan to empower OFWs
Where do Jejomar Binay, Rodrigo Duterte, Grace Poe, Mar Roxas and Miriam Defensor Santiago stand on important OFW issues? Find out here.

(Part 3 of 3)

(Part 1: #OFWVote: Presidential bets on solving illegal recruitment, abuse)

(Part 2: How presidential bets plan to solve NAIA, balikbayan box issues)

MANILA, Philippines – Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) have long been one of the country’s biggest exports, with around 10 million workers scattered across the globe. Undoubtedly, their remittances keep the Philippine economy afloat.

Yet, many of them still return home empty-handed and unable to provide for their families’ needs, forcing them to leave yet again and spend more years away from home. (READ: ‘What they don’t tell you about the OFW life‘ )

While there are already government agencies tasked to look out for the “modern day heroes,” some candidates are proposing the establishment of a dedicated department for OFWs. An agenda proposed by migrant rights groups and academics, however, warns that a “separate department could send the wrong message to the public that migration-for-work is to be promoted further as its establishment signals a level of permanence.” (READ: The ‘OFWS’ agenda: Recommendations for next president‘ )

Where do presidential candidates stand on these issues? Let’s take a look at the answers they submitted to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Establishment of and providing budget for a migrant and overseas resource center

Jejomar Binay

  1. Create dedicated Department of OFWs. The Philippine Overseas Employment Agency, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) will be attached agencies.
  2. Assign social workers to Philippine diplomatic posts to complement Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) officers.
  3. Institutionalization of budget for OFWs on death row (blood money policy).

Rodrigo Duterte

  1. Review of the OWWA mandate for possible complementaion with Migrant Resource Center (MRC)’s services.
  2. Promotion on participation of overseas communities with high concentration of migrant workers.
  3. MRC proposal and budget allocation for the inception of the MRC’s. (office,staff,locale,promotion,operations)
  4. Closer collaborative initiatives with identified host countries.
  5. Every OFW should have an integrated Identification card that is automatically linked to the database and offices of POEA and OWWA to facilitate monitoring and information dissemination.

Grace Poe

  1. Support the establishment of more resource centers for our OFWs to bring services closer to Filipinos abroad.
  2. Invest in establishing more resource centers for both our land-based and sea-based OFWs.
  3. Ensure that OFWs are fully aware of and engaged with services available to them by intensifying the information campaign and working closely with OFW communities and empowering our Labour Attaches to better understand the needs of the Filipinos abroad.

Mar Roxas

  1. Overseas labor centers will be supported further by providing them with ample budget, appropriated according to the number of OFWs working at the specific country.
  2. Seeing that there are OFWs in almost every community across the country, local governments will be tapped to provide current information, and lists of government accredited agencies and policies regarding overseas employment.

Miriam Defensor Santiago

  1. According to Santiago,”between the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), there are enough resources to manage and regulate overseas Filipino workers.”
  2. In the meantime, the government will continue to support all international organizations that protect migrant workers – those within the United Nations and other non-governmental organizations.

Financial literacy

Jejomar Binay

  1. Intensify and institutionalize financial literacy drive for OFWs and families.
  2. Encourage and provide training in entrepreneurship/investment. Train OFWs and their families how to manage a small businesses and provide them information on existing government programs.
  3. Provide safer investment options to dissuade investing pyramiding and Ponzi schemes.
  4. Strengthen capacity of concerned agencies to deal with financial scammers that prey on vulnerable sectors.
  5. Tap the National Anti-Poverty Commission to provide information on various micro-finance partners throughout the country.
  6. Enlist the help of non-government organizations and other socio-civic groups to teach OFW families the value of saving and channeling funds into more meaningful activities rather than splurging on luxuries.

Rodrigo Duterte

  1. Move for the incorporation of a provision in the pending customers modernization bill that allows OFWs of good standing and who have met the required number of years abroad to bring home vehicles or equipment for commercial use at lesser costs, as part of the government’s reintegration program.
  2. Set up OFW reintegration programs that are specific to the needs of OFWs to empower them and facilitate their return in the Philippines.
  3. Conduct financial literacy programs for the families of OFWs to educate them on how the cay manage remittances and convert them into investment.

Grace Poe

  1. Promote the financial wellness of out OFWs and proactively encourage support, and incentivize domestic investment decisions of OFWs, especially in real estate, capital market, insurance investments, and other asset-building initiatives.
  2. Intensive capacity building and awareness campaigns for better personal financial management.
  3. Build upon Senate Bill 1421 or the Act Establishing a Credit Asssistance Program for Overseas Filipino Workers, and design programs to widely distribute the benefits of similar policies.

Mar Roxas

  1. The Pre-Departure Orientation Seminars that touch on financial literacy will be strengthened; resources for learning should likewise be made available in destination countries, whenever possible, for there to be continuity.
  2. An inter-agency committee composed of POEA, DOLE, OWWA, and DFA will be instituted and tasked within determining immediate, short-term, and long-term actions to empower our OFWs to manage their finances.

Miriam Defensor Santiago

  1. Reduce the transaction costs of overseas employment.

  2. There is no clear, attractive government program to mobilize OFW remittances. Oftentimes, savings are frittered away by investing in jeepneys and tricycles, which sometimes turn out to be poor investments. As an alternative, the government may float low denomination dollar infrastructure bonds which would give attractive payoff for OFWs. For example, the government may float a $10 billion infrastructure bond in multiple of $100.00. In return for handsome interest rates, OFWs may then help the Philippine government finance its much needed infrastructures.

Broken families/children’s inability to finish studies

Jejomar Binay 

  1. Provide continuous counseling assistance to families.
  2. Provide better support for single parents, e.g., additional tax exemptions.
  3. Set up scholarship system for children of single parents.
  4. Expand scholarship program nationwide so that each SUC will have 10 government scholars.

Rodrigo Duterte

  1. Conduct awareness-raising seminars about the realities of migration and how they can cope with the challenges that may come with it.
  2. Provide free counseling and assistance to help OFW families, with special assistance to minors and their education.
  3. Long-term solution to this challenge is to provide the best possible environment for businesses to thrive in our own country and create opportunities and real choices here in the Philippines.

Grace Poe

  1. Build an economy where Filipinos will not have to leave their families in for better opportunities but continue to support the families of OFWs in the meantime. 
  2. Create a streamlined system of government support services for OFWs. These should be available through the Social Development and Welfare Assistance Centers for OFW families proposed through House Bill 2466. 
  3. Expand the educational scholarships for OFW dependents (or the OFWDSP), through DepEd and OWWA and include the children of OFWs in the beneficiary-targeting system of the new UNIFAST Law. 
  4. Engage the private sector and civil society to address challenges brought about by familial separation for economic betterment.

Mar Roxas

  1. Provide affordable and easy access to communication between families and OFWs, in the period that they are overseas.
  2. Improve the delivery of services by OWWA to member-OFWs and their dependents, especially in the areas of education and trainings.
  3. Focus on ensuring that the five basic necessities (food, shelter, education, health, and security) is extended to each Filipino family. This can be done through an Ecpanded Bottom Up Budgeting System where projects as regards these services are funded on the basis of a barangay’s population, and are decided upon at the barangay level.

Miriam Defensor Santiago

  1. According to Santiago, “these are the unintended social costs of overseas employment. Government intervention in this area is perhaps inappropriate because it means interfering with family affairs.” 
  2. Provide an economic environment that would lead to the creation of a lot of opportunities for Filipinos to work at home, resulting in a strong likelihood that the family will be whole and children can be strictly monitored by their parents. As an immediate response, the government can provide counselling for troubled OFW families.

Are you an OFW? What are your thoughts on the candidates’ platforms? Tell us in the comments section! –

Which candidate matches your stand on issues? Find out here.



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Don Kevin Hapal

Don Kevin Hapal is Rappler’s Head of Data and Innovation. He started at Rappler as a digital communications specialist, then went on to lead Rappler’s Balikbayan section for overseas Filipinos. He was introduced to data journalism while writing and researching about social media, disinformation, and propaganda.