OFW CENTER. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte leads the groundbreaking rites of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) Center in Daang Hari, Las Piñas City on Thursday (April 7, 2022). Duterte ensured that the government would strive harder to ensure the protection and welfare of OFWs. (Screengrab from RTVM)

MANILA – The creation of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) Center in Las Piñas City, which is designed to be a one-stop hub for migrant workers, will help promote their rights and welfare, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte said on Thursday.

During the groundbreaking rites of the OFW Center in Daang Hari, Las Piñas City, Duterte ensured that the government would strive harder to ensure the protection and welfare of OFWs.

“The productive collaboration of the government and its partner is the key to achieving concrete results for activities that promote the welfare and the holistic development of our unsung heroes,” Duterte said. “In recognition of their service and heroism, this administration has remained steadfast in providing the best service it could give to our OFWs.”

The OFW Center is a 10-storey building that will house the satellite offices of government agencies for the documentation and travel needs of and legal assistance for the OFWs.

The center is a project of the Global Filipino Movement Foundation Inc., a non-stock and non-profit organization working with Christian churches, organizations and individuals to provide free assistance to overseas workers.

Duterte thanked the Global Filipino Movement Foundation for its initiative to support the OFWs through the construction of the one-stop shop.

“[OFWs] will always play a crucial part in our country’s development, especially during times of recovery after tumultuous events such as the ongoing Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic,” he said. “I am pleased to join my fellow workers in government, members of the private sector, and of course, our overseas Filipinos and their families as we hold the groundbreaking ceremony of the OFW Center, a hub dedicated to serving our OFWs.”

End red tape

Acknowledging the OFWs’ contributions to the country, Duterte warned “stupid” workers in government to cut bureaucratic red tape to hasten the delivery of assistance to migrant workers.

Duterte said he would not hesitate to fire government personnel for their inefficiency.

He issued the statement, as he expressed dismay over the constant delays in government transactions affecting OFWs.

“Lahat ng opisina na kailangan or (To all the those in offices) or who may have to intervene in the papers of migrant workers, kailangan nandoon sila (they should be there to attend to their needs immediately),” he said. “Sundin niyo (Follow that) because I still have – maybe I will... I am on my way out. Dadalhin ko kayo paglabas ko ng gobyerno kayong mga p***** i** niyo (I will bring you out when I leave the government). Either you follow what I want. It’s not yours. It’s mine, it’s my call. It’s the executive department and I am the head of that department.”

On Dec. 31, 2021, Duterte signed Republic Act 11641 or “An Act Creating the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW)” 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.

Under the RA 11641, there would be a one-year transition period before the seven existing offices in OFWs would be brought under DMW to avoid any disruption in services.

The agencies include the Department of Affairs’ Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs, the International Labor Affairs Bureau, the National Reintegration Center for OFWs, the National Maritime Polytechnic, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the Office of the Social Welfare Attache, and all Philippine Overseas Labor Offices.

Look into ‘culture of brutality’

Duterte, meantime, also ordered the monitoring of the “culture of brutality” in countries like the Middle East and Afghanistan to ensure that OFWs will be protected at all times.

He said the government should look into “whatever concerns there are in the life of a migrant worker.”

“We also continue to support our OFWs who are now facing unfathomable difficulties in areas such as Ukraine, the Middle East, and Afghanistan, among others,” he said. “Wala masyado ako sa Ukraine. Wala naman tayong nababalitaan. ‘Yung (We have not monitored anything about OFWs in Ukraine. But for) Middle East, Afghanistan, among others, take a closer look. It has nothing to do with the region. It’s the culture of brutality in this area.” (PNA)