By Erma Edera
A groundbreaking ceremony for the first ever overseas Filipino workers (OFW) hospital in San, Fernando Pampanga, nationwide job and business fairs, livelihood programs, and other non-wage benefits — these are the things that workers can look forward to during this year’s celebration of Labor Day.
Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello said the highlight of this year’s Labor Day commemoration will be the unveiling of a site for the future OFWs hospital in Pampanga.
The soon-to-rise OFW hospital will be financed by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) with support from the Department of Health (DOH) and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), the labor secretary said.
“The property where it will stand does nated by the provincial government of Pampanga. During the groundbreaking, OWWA will award livelihood packages worth P20,000 each to 100 OFWs under OWWA’s Balik Pinas, Balik Hanapbuhay program,” he said.
“This is to showcase the Duterte administration’s grateful recognition of our overseas Filipino workers and the Filipino workingmen in general,” he added.
Labor Undersecretary Ana Dione said the establishment of the hospital will provide free services exclusively for migrant workers as well as to their families and dependents.
The hospital will also offer free laboratory examinations for OFWs and other basic requirements for their overseas deployment.
“We hope that this will also be honored by the host countries so we expect a quite extensive negotiation on this,” Dione said.
The construction of the hospital is expected to be completed in one and a half to two years, she said.
Aside from the groundbreaking of the OFW hospital, Bello also bared that there are 29 job fairs in different regions of the country scheduled on May 1. It will gather 1,108 employers, who will be offering more than 122,560 job vacancies.
Of the 122,560 jobs to be offered, 76, 257 are for local while 46,303 are for overseas.
“These are only initial figures and might increase,” Bello said.
The main site of the business fair is at the Kingsborough International Convention Center in San Fernando, Pampanga.
Bello said the participants can expect “simultaneous learning sessions on topics such as the Philippine Qualifications Framework by the Department of Education; How to Start a Business by the Department of Trade and Industry; and skills demonstrations by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.”
The National Reintegration Center for OFWs and Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns will also conduct a livelihood seminar for interested job seekers while the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration will hold a Pre-Employment Orientation with Pag-IBIG
Fund providing information on the fund’s benefits, he added.
Bureau of Local Employment (BLE) Director Dominique Tutay said the top 10 vacancies for local employment during the job caravan are customer service representatives, production machine operators, call center agents, collections specialists, cashiers, retail/sales agents, account specialists, service crews, English teachers and utility staffs.
For overseas employment, the top 10 occupations with the most number of vacancies are professional nurses, construction workers, cleaners, technicians, factory workers, bakers, nursing aides, auto repair personnel, waiters, and waitresses.
Workers have something to look forward to as DOLE will also provide them with non-wage benefits.
Dione said the workers will benefit from the Occupational Safety and Health Law and Telecommuting Act.
“Sa ngayon, mainit-init pa rin yung non-wage benefits like yung occupational safety and health programs. Itong batas na ito ay provision may administrative fines so kapag hindi ka mag-comply, magkakaroon ka ngayon ng penalty. You keep the workplace safe for the workers. That’s very important,” she said.
As President Duterte recently signed Republic Act No. 11165 or Telecommuting Act this year, the labor undersecretary said employees can save their time and cut their travel expenses because they can work at any place outside the office with the help of telecommunication and computer technology.
“Ang isang manggagawa sa bahay na siya magtatrabaho, and therefore theoretically yung oras niya, yung expenses sa pagbabyahe, those are non-wage benefits that comes from that law,” she said.
Dione said the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Expanded Maternity Law (EML) may be issued on May 1.
“Nasa final stage na tayo ng consultation. And hopefully maisabay na rin sa May 1 yung release ng IRR,” she said.
Alternative employment for repatriated OFWs in Libya
According to Emma Feir, officer of the International Labor Affairs Bureau of DOLE, a total of 19 OFWs have been repatriated from conflict-affected areas in Libya.
Feir said they are still coordinating with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to assess the situation there.
“Ang ginagawa ng rapid response team natin ay to assess the whole situation and then the embassy or DFA would recommend mandatory (repatriation) depende sa situation doon. Kinakausap muna namin ‘yung mga employer isa-isa. Ayaw kasi umuwi ng ibang workers natin doon, kasi akala nila okay pa sila, masu-survive pa nila tulad nung 2011. Pero siyempre priority natin ang safety nila,” she said.
Due to the crisis Alert Level 3 raised in Libya, the Philippines had started implementing voluntary repatriation for Filipinos.
Bello said among the alternative markets for the repatriated OFWs is Japan which needs 345,000 workers across 14 major industries.
“Japan needs 345,000 workers belonging to 14 industries including caregivers, agriculture workers, and medical workers,” he said.
According to DOLE, there are 2,600 documented OFWs in Libya, the majority of the health workers.
This year’s Labor Day theme is “Pagpupugay sa Manggagawang Pilipino.”
Bello said they came up with the theme to honor the “many Filipino workers who have helped and continue to help the country.”
The labor secretary also urged everyone to “pause and focus on giving thanks” to Filipino workers.