Department of Migrant Workers

Duterte picks Abdullah Mamao to lead new Department of Migrant Workers

Sofia Tomacruz
Duterte picks Abdullah Mamao to lead new Department of Migrant Workers

NEW SECRETARY. File photo of presidential adviser Abdullah Mamao (center).

Malacañang photo

Lawyer Abdullah Mamao was President Rodrigo Duterte's adviser on overseas Filipino workers and Muslim concerns, and was named as special envoy to Kuwait in 2018

MANILA, Philippines –  President Rodrigo Duterte named his adviser, Abdullah Mamao, as secretary of the newly created Department of Migrant Workers, Acting Presidential Spokesperson and Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar announced on Wednesday, March 9. 

“His experience and qualifications in labor and diplomatic negotiations, among others, as the presidential adviser on OFW concerns will be invaluable to his new position and to our migrant workers,” Andanar said in a statement.

Prior to his new appointment, Mamao was presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and Muslim concerns, and had been designated as special envoy to Kuwait in 2018. Like Duterte, he is a 1972 law graduate of San Beda College. 

Mamao had flown to the Middle East for several special assignments in the past, including in early 2018, when the alleged illegal rescues of OFWs in Kuwait triggered a diplomatic crisis between the two countries. Toward the tail end of the labor row, Mamao had recommended to Duterte to lift the ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to the Gulf state. 

In the same year, Mamao had been among Cabinet members Duterte sent to Libya to help secure the release of two Filipinos abducted by an armed group. 

Back in February 2017, Mamao also went to Saudi Arabia “for a series of bilateral talks” on boosting economic ties, said Arab News.  

The Department of Migrant Workers was created in December 2021, after Duterte signed into law a measure that paved the way for its formation. The law’s enactment is a fulfillment of Duterte’s 2016 presidential campaign promise to create an OFW department that would consolidate all relevant agencies under one office to make it easier for migrant workers to get their documents and seek help from the government.

The new law turns the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration into the Department of Migrant Workers, which would be mandated to oversee all policies protecting the welfare of OFWs. The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, meanwhile, will become an attached agency of the Department of Migrant Workers, and the Commission on Filipino Overseas under the Office of the President, among several others. 

The new department would be tasked to regulate the recruitment, employment, and deployment of OFWs, and spearhead investigations and file cases concerning illegal recruitment and human trafficking cases involving OFWs. with a report from Pia Ranada/

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at