THE government’s responsibility to safeguard the welfare of our migrant workers does not end once an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) signs the employment contract with his or her foreign employer. Although most of our OFWs, especially so-called “first-timers,” are eager to hop on the plane and start working—and earning—there is still one more step required of our outbound workers. And that is to attend a mandatory pre-departure orientation seminar, or PDOS.
Conducted by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), PDOS provides critical information regarding overseas employment so that OFWs know what to expect in their foreign destination. If you have a work visa on your passport and you are registered with the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), then you will have to take PDOS before being given the green light to leave for abroad.
The PDOS is crucial because it provides many basic and useful tips that will come in handy once our OFWs set foot in their country of destination. This mandatory seminar will equip our first timers with some basic information regarding the culture, customs, and traditions of the place or country where they will be working. Seminar modules include culture orientation or familiarization, living and working conditions in the host countries, understanding the rights and obligations of the OFW under their employment contract, just to name a few.
But it’s not all heavy stuff. The PDOS seminar also teaches OFWs very basic things such as how to board the plane, how to use certain appliances or gadgets, how men and women should conduct themselves, the religious policies of specific countries, etc.
The directory of the Philippine Overseas Labor Officials (POLO) are also given to our departing OFWs in case they encounter problems abroad. To help them communicate better with their foreign employers, selected basic language courses are also taught during the seminar, such as Arabic for those going to the Middle East, for instance. The PDOS will hopefully provide our OFWs with the means to cope with their new work environment especially during their first few months of work abroad.
“Ginagawa natin lahat ito para pagdating nila sa bansa, may alam na sila. (We are doing all these so that when they arrive at their country of destination, they already have some working knowledge),” explained Albert Q. Valenciano, OWWA’s Director of Policy and Program Development.
Valenciano explained that the PDOS is a “constantly evolving program” that is tailor-made for each country-destination. “The aim of PDOS is to refine the mental outlook of our migrant workers from someone being dependent on others for help to being enabled workers who can proactively access information before they need it,” he added.
Best of all, the pre-departure orientation seminar is conducted by OWWA and accredited-PDOS providers for free.
By the way, it is not only OFWs who undergo PDOS. Filipino emigrants or those leaving the country to settle permanently abroad are also required to take the seminar. Similar to OFWs, topics include travel regulations, immigration procedures, cultural differences, settlement concerns, employment and social security concerns, and rights and obligations of Filipino migrants.
With the number of Filipinos leaving the country to work or live abroad, attendance at the seminar is at an all-time high. Last year, PDOS participants totaled 702,272. In the first two months of the year alone, attendance was recorded at 101,298.
To accommodate the volume of attendees, there are several PDOS providers conducting the seminar such as accredited land-based and manning agencies. Other PDOS providers include the non-government organizations (NGOs) and industry associations (IAs) such as the Philippine Association of Service Exporters Inc. (PASEI). While PDOS are administered free by OWWA and its accredited PDOS providers, NGOs and the industry associations charge the OFW participants a maximum of P100, chargeable to the OFW’s deployment agency.
To date, there are 210 accredited PDOS providers for sea-based, 31 for land-based, 11 NGOs and seven industry associations. To ensure that PDOS modules are in compliance with the OWWA standards, the agency dispatches a monitoring and evaluation team to do random on-the-spot inspection of accredited PDOS providers. Any violation discovered by the inspection team may result in sanctions for the PDOS provider and depending on the gravity of the offense, may even lead to cancellation or revocation of the agency’s license to operate.
Once our migrant worker arrives in the host country, selected Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO) also conduct what is known as the post-arrival orientation seminar, or PAOS, as a supplement to PDOS. The PAOS, which is a voluntary workshop, tackles labor and living conditions of OFWs in the “receiving country” as well as the foreign government’s programs and services available to them. PDOS and PAOS represent the government’s welfare intervention in the overall migration cycle of Filipino workers.
These programs are something our countrymen should be proud of since this system of protecting and safeguarding the welfare and well-being of our OFWs is viewed as a “model” for other labor-sending nations. In fact, many of them are studying how they can adopt and institutionalize services and programs like PDOS and PAOS, among others, in their own countries.
At OWWA, we continuously evaluate these seminars as well as other programs and services in order to meet the evolving conditions and challenges in overseas employment and deployment to better respond to the needs of our migrant workers.x