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Restrictions on OFW deployment to high-risk areas remain in force, says Baldoz

By Lolit Acosta

Due to increasing pressure on the issue of providing safety nets for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) strongly reiterated early this week that restrictions against the processing and deployment of OFWs in certain areas of the globe remain in force in order to ensure their welfare and protection.

“As far as the DOLE is concerned, there remain in effect restrictions on the processing and deployment of OFWs in view of the peace and order situation in those areas,” said Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz in a statement issued to the media on Wednesday. “The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) is tasked to implement these restrictions imposed on both legitimate recruitment agencies and OFWs,” she said.

Baldoz referred in particular to POEA Advisory No. 27, Series of 2010, which specifies a total ban on deployment of OFWs in four destination countries, namely Afghanistan, Nigeria, Iraq, and Lebanon. On the other hand, the deployment of newly-hired household service workers (HSWs) remains temporarily suspended for Jordan. This reminder in wakes of reports that some Filipinos, despite the recent events happening in Lebanon, still want to travel to politically unstable countries.

Baldoz, said that in the light of the 22-point labor and employment agenda of President Benigno S. Aquino III, the intention of the government is to strengthen the protection and welfare of the OFWs and reach out to those needing assistance, including the distressed ones. The overarching goal of the agenda to invest in the country’s human resource in order to increase employability and strengthen their skills to match their skills to match the opportunities in local industries.

Baldoz said that the President is mindful of the OFWs sacrifices for their families and honored the OFW with the nation’s gratitude by instructing the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to set aside P1 billion for the government’s reintegration program during the recent 2010 Model OFW of the Year Award of the OWWA.

Ito ang layunin ng ating administrasyon: ang magbukas ng higit na maraming oportunidad sa mga OFW na mamuhay nang masagana sa Pilipinas upang hindi na nila kailanganin pang maghanap ng trabaho sa ibang bansa,” the President said.

Baldoz cited that the positive developments on the overseas front mirror the increased coordination of the main agencies involved in the welfare and protection of OFWs, including the POEA, OWWA, the International Labor Affairs Bureau, and the 38 Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) worldwide in ensuring the protection of OFWs in the light of the 22-point agenda of President Aquino which emphasizes the following:

* The review of the continued deployment of workers to countries, which are high and medium-risk areas, as well as the continued deployment of workers in high-risk occupations;

* Full implementation of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, in order to pursue and prosecute those engaging in illegal and predatory activities, including fixers, scammers, and especially traffickers that target OFWs and their families;

* Intensified assistance for OFWs and their families in achieving financial stability through training, investment, and savings programs; and

* The need to address the social costs of migration by working closely with communities and families of OFWs to provide effective social welfare services such as counseling and pre-departure orientation seminars. Support the creation of community-based support groups for families of OFWs, among others.

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