MANILA - President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. pushed for better welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) through the newly formed Department of Migrant Workers (DMW).
In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, Marcos said the agency will ensure that all OFWs have jobs that fit their qualifications and are paid adequately.
"Ang kagawarang ito ang magsisilbing kanlungan ng ating mga kababayan sa gitna ng mundong walang kasiguruhan at mahigpit na kumpetisyon. Ito ang maglalatag sa kanila ng mga oportunidad; titiyak na ang kanilang mga hanapbuhay ay tugma sa kanilang kasanayan; maninigurong akma ang sahod at maayos ang kalagayan sa kanilang mga kumpanya; at mangangalaga sa kanilang mga pamilya habang sila ay nasa malayo," he said.
(This agency will serve as a refuge for all our countrymen in the middle of a world filled with uncertainty and stiff competition. This will provide them opportunities, will ensure that their jobs fit their qualifications, will ensure that they receive adequate pay and proper treatment in their companies, and will take care of the families they left behind.)
Marcos said his administration will automate the verification of contracts of OFWs, and issue digitized Overseas Employment Certifications (OEC) that workers can keep in their phones.
He also called on the Department of Foreign Affairs to coordinate with the DMW to ensure that all OFWs who lost their jobs in recent years will be able to work again.
Marcos said his administration will also shorten the hiring process for OFWs from three months to three weeks, and will compress the OFW handbook from 240 sections to a pamphlet with no more than 100 pages.
"Mahirap na nga ang buhay, kaya naman ayaw na nating makitang lalo pang nahihirapan ang ating mga manggagawang mandarayuhan sa pagtupad sa kanilang mga pangarap," he said.
(Our lives are already difficult, so we will not make it worse for our overseas workers who just want to achieve their dreams.)
Marcos said the One Repatriation Command Center (ORCC) has been established to help all overseas Filipinos who are in danger or who are abused.
"Ilalaan natin ang social media platforms ng Department of Migrant Workers at ang hotline upang matulungan agad at mailigtas sila mula sa mas higit na kapahamakan," he said.
(We will use the social media platforms of the Department of Migrant Workers and its hotline to quickly assist and rescue those who are in danger.)
"Noon, nangungutang pa ang ina ng isang OFW upang sumakay ng barko para pumunta sa Maynila at mangatok sa iba’t ibang ahensya para mapauwi ang anak na inaapi. Ngayon, kami na ang tatawag sa mga magulang ng OFWs para sabihin sa kanila ang petsa kung kailan nila mayayakap at makakapiling ang kanilang mga anak," Marcos added.
(Before, a mother of an OFW would have to borrow money in order to travel to Manila and seek help from different agencies to bring her child home. Now, we will be the one to call the parents of OFWs to inform them when they can meet their children.)
Marcos likewise said the Philippine government is talking with the KIngdom of Saudi Arabia on lifting the Philippines' deployment ban.
"Sa mga susunod na buwan ay magtutungo si Secretary Susan Ople sa Saudi Arabia upang tiyakin na may sapat na puwersang magsisiguro na mabubuksang muli ang empleyo sa bansa, at para maisulong ang ating kampanya laban sa human trafficking," he said.
(In the coming months, DMW Secretary Susan Ople will be visiting Saudi Arabia to ensure that the employment ban will be lifted, and that we can advance our campaign against human trafficking.)
The DMW and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration will likewise ensure that children of OFWs will have a chance to study in schools where they will be taught financial literacy, mental wellness, sports, arts and culture.
Marcos said OFWs deserve all these benefits due to their sacrifices for the country.
"You deserve a Home in Government not only for the money you send home, but for you are not cold tools of the economy. You deserve it for your sacrifices, for our country and your perseverance and excellence in the global arena," Marcos said.
"You represent the fighting faith of the Filipinos as a nation and as a people. Let us transform your overseas journey into inspirational stories for all time," he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed the law that created the DMW in December 2021.
The DMW is expected to operate in 2023.