MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) met on Friday, October 5, to discuss and streamline government programs aimed to help overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said that a working group was created to identify existing programs across different government agencies geared to assist the OFWs. By identifying these, he said, the OFWs can easily find the programs that would suit their needs in a menu, especially for returning workers. (READ: The silent struggle of returning OFWs)
"Minsan 'yung OFW, hinihintay pa bago ng sampung taon bago makauwi bago mag-negosyo. But after 3 to 5 years, eh pwede na. Then maybe [by identifying these programs,] we can help how they can move forward," Cayetano said.
(Sometimes the OFW wait for 10 years before coming home and starting a business. But after 3 to 5 years, he can actually do so. Then maybe by identifying these programs, we can help how they can move forward.)
The working group would also discuss how the DFA and the DOLE can "better integrate" to address OFW and their families' concerns, Cayetano said. (READ: How Duterte gov’t plans to bring OFWs back home)
Prior to the creation of an inter-agency working group, OFWs were simply referred to the said department by the DFA or DOLE.
"Abroad, it's easy to have a 'One country, One team' approach because the ambassador serves as your governor. But when they get back here, for example, one OFW wants to be deployed, but he lacks training, so we would refer him to TESDA. It's not seamless," Cayetano said.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the meeting is a priority as they receive hundreds of messages coming from distressed OFWs in need.
"The purpose of this meeting is to discuss how we can put our activities to maximize [and] optimize our services to OFWs. Every day, every minute, we receive text messages coming from distressed OFWs so we really need to fix our services," Bello said.
According to Cayetano, the results of the meeting will be presented to President Rodrigo Duterte. The findings would also determine whether another cluster among government agencies would be created specifically for OFW welfare.
In the past, the DFA opened a passport courtesty lane exclusive for OFWs. DOLE had also launched the OFW ID that replaced the overseas employment certificate.
Earlier this year, the Overseas Filipino Bank was opened to offer lower remittance service rates to OFWs.