In an update on OFWs assisted by the DOLE’s Assist WELL program, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday said an overwhelming majority—107 of 163—overseas Filipino workers who returned during the past two weeks and provided various assistance under the program came home on account of various contract violations, and not due to the depressed oil price in the global market.
“We thought initially that because of the hype about the decline in the global price of oil, OFWs who would come home will advance this as reason for returning to the Philippines. But the record at the Assist WELL Centers show otherwise. Majority of the OFWs who registered returned because of contractual violations by their employers, such as underpayment of wages, misrepresentation, contract substitution, and excessive collection of fees. So I have instructed the POEA to address these alleged violations by calling the attention of recruitment agencies that deployed these workers,” Baldoz said.
Baldoz, who had instructed all Philippine Overseas Labor Offices to report weekly on the effects of the decreasing global prices of oil on OFWs’ employment, and who directed the permanent set-up of the Assist WELL Processing Center to respond to those who will be affected, said the latest report of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, which supervises the operation of the 18 Assist WELL Processing Centers all over the country, indicate that the purpose for the set-up of the Centers is being met, with OFWs coming home heeding the government’s call to register themselves to avail of government assistance.
Last week, Secretary Baldoz further instructed all POLOs to pre-register all returning OFWs through the web-based Assist WELL e-System that the POEA developed, directing them to submit the names of POLO focal persons to the POEA’s Information and Communication Technology Branch (firstname.lastname@example.org) to complement the Assist WELL focal persons all over the country.
The weekly Assist WELL report show that the 163 OFWs who have returned and registered at the Centers came from 15 countries, namely, Bahrain (1 OFW); Canada (2); East Africa (1); Jordan (1); Kuwait (99); Lebanon (2); Malaysia (1); New Caledonia (1); Qatar (6); Saudi Arabia (35); Singapore (2); South America (1); United Arab Emirates (4); Yemen (3); Libya (2); and South Korea (2).
“The bulk of these 163 OFWs were served at the Assist WELL Center of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (127). The rest were served in the Assist Well Centers at the POEA (26); and in the Regional Offices, namely, Region 11 (3 OFWs); Region 10 (2); Region 2 (1); Caraga (1); and Regional Office 4-B (1). Two OFWs were served at the Assist WELL Center at the POLO in Seoul, South Korea,” Baldoz said.
The ‘WELL’ in the Assist WELL Program stands for welfare, employment, livelihood, and legal services, which are the government interventions provided at each of the Assist WELL Centers. The Centers are manned by a composite team composed of representatives of the POEA, OWWA, National Reintegration Center for OFWs, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Bureau of Local Employment, and the Bureau of Working Conditions.
“We provided all of the 163 OFWs with one, or two, or all of these types of assistance, depending on their request. Some of the OFWs avail of one or more service at the Centers,” Baldoz said.
The report show that 11 OFWs had availed of legal assistance services; six have availed of livelihood development assistance; 92 availed of airport assistance; 14, of counseling services; one, of emergency medical assistance; 16, of temporary shelter accommodation; and 19 availed of transport assistance to residence.
On livelihood, the Assist WELL Centers offer various DOLE livelihood programs, such as the Balik-Pinas, Balik-Hanapbuhay; Balik-Pinay, Balik-Hanapbuhay, Community Enterprise, Enterprise Development Training, Kabuhayan Enhancement, Kabuhayan Formation, and the Livelihood Development Assistance Program.
On employment, three OFWs availed of TESDA’s competency assistance and certification; 11 availed of local employment facilitation; and 30 availed of overseas employment services.
“Our system has an Internet-based employment referral system. We have linked the POEA database with the PhilJobNet database so OFWs can choose prospective employers to whom we recommend them,” said Baldoz, adding that the DOLE is engaging local business groups and associations so they could also make available to job applicants their vacancies.
Baldoz said that aside from contract violations, which were cited by the 107 who returned from Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, the other reasons cited by the OFWs for coming home to the Philippines were the oil price crises (8 OFWs); civil unrest (5); end of contract (16); personal health issues (4); and termination (21).
Those who came home because their contracts have ended were from Canada (2); South Korea (2); Kuwait (1); Lebanon (2); New Caledonia (1); Saudi Arabia (6); Singapore (1); and United Arab Emirates. Those terminated came from East Africa (1), Kuwait (4), Qatar (1), and Saudi Arabia (14).
Finally, Baldoz noted that two OFWs came home and decided to settle for good in the country.