MANILA – President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Monday ordered the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) to pursue automated services to ensure the immediate delivery of assistance to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), Marcos emphasized the need to stop the bureaucratic red tape to ease the burden of OFWs.
Marcos instructed the DMW to coordinate with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) for the digital processing of OFWs' documents.
"We shall automate the verification of contracts and issue secure Overseas Employment Certifications (OEC) that you can keep on your smartphone. I call on the Department of Migrant Workers and the DICT to make this a top priority," he said in a speech delivered at Batasan Complex in Quezon City.
The OEC, also known as exit clearance or pass, is a document certifying the regularity of recruitment and documentation of an OFW and a proof of his or her registration with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople earlier vowed to simplify the existing processes to ensure "enhanced, efficient, and transparent" services for OFWs.
She also guaranteed that she is prioritizing the review of the POEA's rules and regulations, including its system on contract verification and issuance of OECS for the streamlining of its key frontline services.
Faster, simpler transactions
Marcos also sought the faster deployment of OFWs by shortening the processing period to three weeks from the current three months.
"Mula sa tatlong buwan ay gagawin na lamang nating tatlong linggo para sa isang dayuhang employer na i-proseso ang mga papeles ng Filipinong nais nitong kunin bilang empleyado (Instead of three months, we will make it just three weeks for a foreign employer to process the papers of Filipinos they want to hire)," he said.
To make government transactions with OFWs simpler, Marcos likewise directed the issuance of pamphlets, replacing the OFW handbook which serves as a reference for the migrant workers'rights and contains information to help them address their problems and concerns.
"Aatasan din natin ang kagawaran na gawing simple ang kumplikadong handbook ng mga tuntunin at regulasyong para sa mga OFW, nang sa gayon ay maging maalwan ang mga transaksiyong may kinalaman sa kanilang pangingibang-bansa (We will also direct the department to make the complicated handbook for OFWs simple to help them understand the transactions for their foreign employment)," he said.
"Mula sa handbook na may 240 seksyon ay gagawin nating pamphlet na lamang ito na hindi hihigit sa isandaang pahina. 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 (From 240 sections contained in the handbook, we will just make it less than 100 pages through the issuance of a pamphlet. Life is already difficult, and we do not want our migrant workers to find it difficult to fulfill their deams)," Marcos added.
Help jobless OFWs
Marcos also told the DMW to seek the assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to help OFWs who lose their jobs.
He called on the DFA to ensure the immediate employment of jobless OFWs.
Marcos also bared that Ople would fly to Saudi Arabia to discuss the plan to lift the ban on the deployment of OFWs.
"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 (In the coming months, Secretary Susan Ople will go to Saudi Arabia to discuss the deployment of workers in the host country and push for the administration's campaign against human trafficking)," he said.
This, as he ensured that OFW's rights will be protected, in the event the deployment ban is lifted.
"Sa ating mga kababayan sa ibang bansa (To our fellow countrymen living and working abroad): 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.
One Repatriation Command Center
Marcos also noted that the One Repatriation Command Center has been launched to provide immediate response to distressed OFWs.
"Para sa mga kababayan nating naiipit sa kaguluhan, inaabuso, at nanganganib ang buhay, ikinagagalak kong sa ilalim ng aking pamumuno, ay inilunsad ang One Repatriation Command Center or ORCC (For our fellow countrymen who are experiencing abuse or in danger, the One Repatriation Command Center has been established under my watch)," he said.
Distressed OFWs or their immediate families may call the ORCC hotline "1-348."
The command center, which operates on a 24/7 basis with case and welfare officers working three shifts daily, can accommodate calls and walk-ins or regular weekdays.
Requests can be made through the 1-348 hotline on weekends.
Marcos also vowed to provide educational assistance to the children of OFWs.
"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," Marcos said. (PNA)