OFW dep't law takes effect, transition underway

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

February 3, 2022, 6:04 pm

<p><em>(File photo)</em></p>

(File photo)

MANILA – The law creating the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) takes effect on Thursday, a ranking government official announced.

"Today, the DMW Act takes effect but then what's going to happen within the whole year, actually the subsumed agencies will be on a hold-over capacity except that we expect the president to appoint a Secretary or Acting Secretary anytime soon because there are really timelines that have to be met," Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola said during a Blas F. Ople Forum on Thursday.

Arriola said a department order on the use of the actual fund should be ready on March 5.

The implementing rules and regulations (IRR), on the other hand, should be published by April 18 followed by the staffing pattern on June 3.

"It is said in the law that (DMW) will only be constituted having, first it has a budget for 2023, it has an IRR, and there is a staffing pattern. Technically, it would really depend on the political will of the next president and how the next administration will value migration and our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers)," Arriola said.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Dec. 31, 2021 signed Republic Act (RA) 11641 also known as “An Act Creating the Department of Migrant Workers” to improve coordination among agencies concerned with OFWs.

The new department would cover both documented and undocumented OFWs and serve as a one-stop-shop from pre-employment, employment to reintegration.

There would be a one-year transition period before the seven existing offices involved in OFW affairs would be brought under DMW to avoid any disruption in services.

These agencies include DFA's Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs (OUMWA), the International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB), the National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO), the National Maritime Polytechnic, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), the Office of the Social Welfare Attache (OSWA), and all Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO).

The POLO, which will soon be the "migrant workers" office, is currently present in 34 of the 94 Philippine foreign service posts around the world.

At the DFA, Arriola said a technical working group had been meeting to prepare for the creation of a DMW transition committee.

"All our people will be on hold-over and are willing to assist the new department until they are able to get their groove. They're only going to have their budget in January 2023 so as of now all the migration agencies are performing their usual functions as we help in the transition," she said.

Arriola noted that only the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs and the positions created under RA 8042 are going to the DMW, "the rest of the assistance-to-national teams, and the rest of the foreign service officers are staying in DFA."

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. said the DFA will continue to uphold the third pillar of the Philippine foreign policy, which is to protect the rights and promote the welfare of overseas Filipinos.

"The DFA will continue to uphold that pillar diplomatically and in real practical terms. The new department cannot do this job, diplomacy is the DFA's exclusive remit, and helping and protecting overseas Filipinos remains our job, our duty, and our honor," he said in a recorded message. (PNA)