THE Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said it will provide “improved and comprehensive” services for returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from the Middle East and South Korea who may lose their jobs because of the oil price slump or for other reasons.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz has ordered the heads of 20 Assist W.E.L.L. centers nationwide to ensure improved services for returning workers.
The Assist W.E.L.L. (welfare, employment, legal, and livelihood) program aims to provide all the help that may be needed by OFWs who are displaced from their jobs due to civil war, epidemic, and related matters.
Baldoz issued the order as a preparatory measure in case the more than one million OFWs in the Middle East and South Korea are forced to return to the country if retrenchments should continue.
Last week, reports said some 10,000 OFWs have already lost their jobs in different countries in the Middle East due to falling oil prices. There were also rumors that around 1.5 million would lose their jobs in Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, DOLE is working on the return of 7,000 OFWs who have been illegally staying in Seoul, South Korea.
Baldoz instructed the heads of the Assist W.E.L.L. centers to make sure their delivery of services are “more cohesive and synchronized.”
DOLE has 20 such centers— three in the National Capital Region and 17 in various regions.
“The Assist W.E.L.L. Processing Center is led by a management committee that oversees and ensures a well-coordinated and systematic delivery of assistance to returning or repatriated overseas Filipino workers. It operates during both emergency and normal times,” Baldoz said.
She said the additional improvement that could be done in the centers would be “the structuring of database for returning OFWs from the Middle East Region.”
“The database shall serve as a record of the returning OFWs to speed up the processing of the assistance or services that they may choose or avail of,” she explained.
The free services offered by the centers include stress debriefing or counselling by Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), local employment referral or job placement by the DOLE’s Bureau of Local Employment, and overseas employment referral or placement by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and its regional centers or extension offices.
Other services include livelihood assistance from OWWA and the National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO); legal assistance or conciliation services by the POEA, DOLE regional offices, and the Regional Coordinating Councils; and competency assessment and training assistance by the Training and Education of Skills Development Administration (TESDA).
According to Baldoz, the 20 centers must ensure systematic procedures so that the OFWs’ needs are quickly assessed and are given the particular service they need. She said the centers will strictly monitor the progress of the delivery of assistance sought by the OFWs.
“In case of job referral, the centers’ staff will monitor the progress of the OFWs’ placement until they are deployed to their new jobs. The legal assistance will also be checked, ensuring that the complaints or cases filed are efficiently handled until their disposition. The progress of all other services will be also monitored,” she said.
Nelson S. Badilla