Documented OFWs in Myanmar may now freely travel to, from Philippines

Michelle Abad

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Documented OFWs in Myanmar may now freely travel to, from Philippines

YANGON. An aerial view of downtown of Yangon.


The policy, following the DFA's lowering of Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 2 in Myanmar, does not apply to the deployment of new hires

MANILA, Philippines – Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) with existing work contracts in Myanmar may now travel freely to and from the Philippines, provided they are registered with the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), DMW Secretary Susan Ople announced on Wednesday, August 9.

Ople’s announcement comes a month after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) lowered Myanmar’s crisis alert level from Alert Level 4, called “Evacuation,” to Alert Level 2, known as the “Restricted Phase.”

“The public is hereby informed that OFWs who have been legally working in Myanmar can now return to the Philippines for vacation and would be allowed to go back to resume their overseas employment after properly registering with the DMW,” Ople said in her advisory.

“This applies only to those with existing employment contracts and not to the deployment of new hires to Myanmar,” she added.

The Philippine embassy in Yangon advised OFWs based in Myanmar to coordinate with the Migrant Workers Office (MWO) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, while the returning OFWs presently in the Philippines may coordinate with the nearest DMW office. Myanmar does not have a MWO, which is considered the DMW’s office.

The DFA imposed Alert Level 4 on Myanmar in July 2021, citing the “worsening COVID-19 situation” in the country. Many Filipinos opted to stay because they had well-paying jobs.

By June 2022, Myanmar’s COVID-19 cases had not gone back to the levels of the July 2021 peak, and the OFW community appealed to the Philippine government to let them travel freely between countries. But the Philippine embassy in Yangon said that the reason for the Alert Level 4 imposition was due to the “escalation of violence” brought about by the 2021 military coup.

In their appeal, the OFW community in Myanmar said that they felt “safe” in Yangon as the country’s political situation had relatively calmed down since the coup began. Many feared that if they went home, they would not be able to return to their jobs.

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Ople said that, based on the assessment of the DFA and the Philippine embassy in Yangon, the OFWs are concentrated in the major cities of Yangon, Nay Pyi Taw, and Mandalay, and enjoy “safe and stable” working conditions.

Still, the government advised OFWs to avoid crisis-prone regions in Myanmar, since Philippine authorities may not have easy access to these in case of emergencies.

“Those with existing OECs (overseas employment certificates) are happy, but the others who have yet to secure the OFW Pass are still waiting for further details from DMW,” a Filipino community leader who asked that his name be withheld told Rappler.

There are members of the OFW community in Myanmar who were direct hires and do not have OECs. But the community leader said that they would be able to apply for an OEC as long as they have a copy of their contract.

The OFW Pass is the recently introduced digital alternative of the OEC, and is found on the DMW Mobile app. But the app is still being pilot tested in the Philippines and in 10 countries that host the highest concentrations of OFWs, of which Myanmar is not part. The DMW is still allowing the issuance and use of OECs while the OFW Pass is still being tested.

The community leader said that the ones who will likely run into issues freely moving between countries are the workers who are undocumented, such as those coming into Myanmar on tourist visas, given that the Philippines has banned deployment of OFWs to the country since July 2021.

Myanmar is also host to cryptocurrency scam hubs where Filipinos have been trafficked to work in. Some of the victims, who believed they were applying for work as “tech support” and “sales agents” in Thailand, entered Thailand as tourists and were taken by their recruiters across the border to Myanmar. (EXPLAINER: How OFWs are trafficked into crypto scam operations)

In Myanmar border towns, they were forced to scam victims online. Survivors who testified in the ongoing Senate investigation described similar experiences: long working hours, lower pay than expected, and abusive working conditions. –

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.