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Philippines pilots ‘OFW Pass,’ replacing OEC

Michelle Abad

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Philippines pilots ‘OFW Pass,’ replacing OEC

OFW PASS. In an audio-video presentation from the Department of Migrant Workers in Malacañang on July 21, 2023, an overseas Filipino worker is seen showing his OFW Pass to immigration.

Courtesy of RTVM

The Department of Migrant Workers tests its new mobile app and OFW Pass in 10 countries with the highest numbers of Filipino workers

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Friday, July 21, piloted a Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) mobile app to introduce the “OFW Pass” and further automate transactions for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

The OFW Pass, which will be hosted on the DMWMobile app, is the digital alternative to the overseas employment certificate (OEC).

The OEC, also known as an exit clearance, certifies the regularity of recruitment and documentation of an OFW and is proof of his or her registration with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (which was merged into the DMW when the department was created). OFWs traditionally present the OEC to immigration officers when they go back and forth to their host countries and the Philippines.

In a speech at the launch in Malacañang Palace on Friday, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the launch of the app was in line with his administration’s thrust to increase digitalization, efficiency, and accessibility.

“This innovative app will revolutionize the way our OFWs access certain services, such as the verification of their contracts and applying for their OFW Pass. Gone are the days when OFWs had to endure long queues to obtain this certification,” Marcos said.

Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople described how, for 31 years, OFWs needed to constantly line up and pay P100 for OECs. Rights groups have long called for the scrapping of the OEC because it is burdensome to the OFWs who have to line up and pay every time. The DMWMobile app and OFW Pass are free.

Ople said that, during the “peak season” of OEC issuance in November 2022, the department issued 133,000 OECs in that month alone. “So you can imagine the lines in every Philippine Overseas Labor Office – now called the Migrant Workers Office – and also now at our own building here in Ortigas,” she said.

The DMW collaborated with the Department of Information and Communications Technology in developing the app.

Ople acknowledged that after using physical OECs for 31 years, OFWs would take time to get used to transitioning to the digital version. This is why the department decided to first test the app and OFW Pass in 10 countries, where there are the highest number of OFWs:

  • Saudi Arabia
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Qatar
  • Hong Kong
  • Singapore
  • Malaysia
  • Oman
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom
  • Japan

Ople said that, to lessen confusion and avoid “panic” due to the transition, the department would still maintain OECs for at least two months. Some 500 Filipino community leaders across countries have also volunteered to be “OFW Pass teachers” to orient OFWs and aspiring migrant workers to use the app.

The OFW Pass will also be integrated into the Philippines’ travel declaration system eTravel, according to Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Norman Tansingco. “No more need for paper, no questions, just present the OFW Pass, we will clear the OFW in our immigration area,” he said.

Tansingco noted the constant increase in departing OFWs as more countries opened up their economies post-COVID-19. The BI recorded more than 1.2 million OFW departures from January to June 2023.

As of posting, the DMWMobile app on the Apple App Store has a majority of one-star reviews of at least 171 ratings. Users complain of registration problems and other technical bugs.

The Department of Migrant Workers conducts a pilot testing of the app and OFW Pass in 10 countries where there are the highest numbers of OFWs. Overseas employment certificates will still be around for at least two months to lessen confusion.


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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.