Department of Migrant Workers

Ople orders recruitment agencies to stop requiring PPE for departing OFWs

Michelle Abad
Ople orders recruitment agencies to stop requiring PPE for departing OFWs

FOR SAFETY OF OFW.- Due to the continuing threat of Coronavirus in the country and the new Omicron variant, some of the departing Overseas Filipino Workers wore Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Wednesday, December 8, 2021 at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal III in Pasay City, Philippines Photo by Dennis Abrina/Rappler

Dennis Abrina/Rappler

Migrant Workers Secretary Toots Ople says requiring departing OFWs to wear PPE sets is 'outdated, misguided, and oppressive'

MANILA, Philippines – Migrant Workers Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople has ordered recruitment agencies to stop requiring overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) sets when leaving the country.

The order came after Senator Pia Cayetano took notice of a group of departing OFWs wearing full PPE – including face shields, gloves, and footsies – at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

“It’s like the height of ridiculousness that you have to wear those footsies because they are walking around the whole airport where thousands of people enter, walk around every day. So there is nothing hygienic about being in footsies, as opposed to being in their regular rubber shoes or walking shoes,” Cayetano said in a press statement on Thursday, September 22.

“I hope we can help out our OFWs so that they won’t have to pay extra to travel for work, and they don’t have to travel in this kind of discomfort,” she added.

In a statement on Saturday, September 24, Ople said she agreed with Cayetano, and that the PPE requirement for OFWs is “outdated, misguided, and oppressive.”

“I regret not having issued this order much earlier to spare our OFWs the discomfort of going to the airport in full PPE attire,” said Ople.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, which is still functioning under the Department of Migrant Workers while the department is still in transition, issued Advisory No. 62 series of 2022 saying that the POEA has not mandated the use of PPE sets for OFWs.

POEA officer-in-charge Bernard Olalia said in the advisory that with the easing of domestic and international travel regulations, as well as the loosening of COVID-19 protocols in the Philippines, “the POEA reiterates that requirements in the deployment and travel of OFWs must also be relaxed.”

“All licensed agencies are thus hereby reminded of the aforestated guidance from the POEA on the use of PPE, consistent with the minimum public health and safety guidelines currently being implemented in the Philippines and in countries of destination,” Olalia added.

According to the DMW, some PPE requirements come from the employers and not the agencies, and that the agencies simply comply.

The DMW said a manning agency told Ople that one of their Japanese principals still requires wearing of PPE sets and masks for Filipino crew bound for Japan, since tens of thousands of new COVID-19 cases are still reported in the country.

The department also knew of a Chinese shipping vessel that requires its local manning agency to supply PPEs to embarking crew to prevent infection during travel, with the cost of the PPE sets shouldered by the employer.

Still, the agency working with the Japanese principals said it would comply with the POEA’s advisory.

“The DMW firmly believes that having vaccines plus booster shots and wearing face masks provide sufficient protection to our overseas workers. Until otherwise recommended by our health officials, the POEA advisory against mandatory wearing of PPEs for our OFWs by their respective recruitment and manning agencies shall remain in force,” Ople said.

The migrant workers department noted that Taiwan and the US have relaxed their protocols for incoming foreign workers. In the US, airlines require only the presentation of vaccination certificates. – Rappler.com

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  1. MK

    I stopped over the Terminal 2 Airport last month and saw those passengers wearing PPE. I did not inquire and just assumed that they were maintenance people at the airport. Only now with this article regarding Ople lifting that order of OFW not required to wear PPE I learned they were the considered heroes of the Philippines remitting billions of dollars to make the Philippine economy afloat. How sad it is that our own government treat our heroes they way they do. They have to queue on a different line, they have to present so many documentations even if they are repeat travellers, pay various government exactions, being double taxed, and then required to wear PPE when the otehr passengers were not. I wonder what was the purpose of the governmetn agency in hasving that policy that further degrade and incovenienced our heroes?

Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer with the investigative unit of Rappler. She also covers overseas Filipinos and the rights of women and children.