Philippine labor

Rights group: Don’t be proud of return to pre-pandemic OFW deployment

Michelle Abad

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Rights group: Don’t be proud of return to pre-pandemic OFW deployment

OVERSEAS JOB FAIR. Jobseekers try their luck as over 4,000 overseas job were offered by various recruitment agencies during the 2023 Overseas Job Fair hosted by the Department of Migrant Workers in Central Visayas, at a mall in Cebu City on December 8, 2023.

Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler

The Department of Migrant Workers reports it issued 2.5 million overseas employment certificates and OFW Passes in 2023

MANILA, Philippines – The return of overseas Filipino worker deployment to pre-pandemic levels is “not something that the Philippine government should be proud of,” an OFW rights group said on Saturday, January 6.

Progressive group Migrante International was responding to an update from Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) officer-in-Charge Hans Cacdac in a Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon briefing on Thursday, January 4, that the department issued 2.5 million overseas employment certificates (OECs) and OFW Passes in 2023, and overseas employment had returned to pre-pandemic levels.

“It is yet another proof that after four years since COVID-19 hit the world, the Philippines continues to fail in creating decent jobs at home,” said Migrante, pointing out that 2.5 million issued OECs and OFW Passes translated to more than 6,800 Filipinos leaving the country each day.

Cacdac also noted that under the late DMW Secretary Susan Ople, who died in August 2023, the department was able to hasten the process for deployment.

He said that an OEC could now be issued within a day, and the time needed to accredit foreign employers went down from 20-30 days to 7-15 days.

But Migrante raised concern, saying, “We certainly hope that this does not mean reducing or letting go of standards for legitimate employers. Failure to properly weed out unscrupulous and abusive employers will directly have a negative effect on OFWs’ living and working conditions, rights and even lives.”

Cacdac also hailed the department’s increased anti-trafficking efforts, including several closure operations of alleged illegal recruitment firms, and the takedown of around 7,000 illegal recruitment pages on Facebook.

As of Friday, January 5, the DMW has closed 14 firms accused of illegal recruitment since 2022.

But Migrante still noted how many Filipinos fell victim to illegal recruitment in 2023.

“Many OFWs have filed cases against illegal recruiters and scammers like former Cebu City councilor Prisca Nina Mabatid, CEO of PCVC Opportunities Abroad, Pinoy Care Visa Center, and PCVC-Opportunities Abroad. These figures also do not paint a rosy picture of the jobs situation in the Philippines,” said Migrante.

Cacdac said that the DMW aimed to further fight illegal recruitment and human trafficking in 2024.

“We wish to crack down on more illegal recruitment activities. There are still many establishments that need to be shut down,” said Cacdac in a mix of English and Filipino.

Migrante said that the DMW and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. should “seriously reconsider their uncritical celebration of the Philippine government’s labor export program.”

It was only in 2023 that the DMW went fully operational since its creation in December 2021. In January 2023, Ople said in a Malacañang press briefing that she had hoped to deploy more OFWs throughout the year. – Rappler.com

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers overseas Filipinos, the rights of women and children, and local governments.