The government’s “policy interventions” on the plight of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) were tackled by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in its weekly radio program “Tanggol Karapatan” on Saturday, June 5.
CHR Commissioner Gwen Pimental Gana asked Administrator Bernard P. Olalia of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA):
“Bakit paulit-ulit ang issues ng migrant workers? Supposedly, they are the modern-day heroes. Ang daming programa din ng government para sa kanila (Why are the issues of migrant workers recurring? Supposedly, they are the modern-day heroes. There are also many government programs for them).”
Olalia said the government has developed several “policy interventions” that would hopefully ease the burdens of OFWs, especially now that they are keen to get back to work.
First, he said, is the automatic extension of their Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) so that they no longer need to go to the office of the POEA and worry about transportation or other limitations.
In the airports’ labor action center, there will be an automatic revalidation of their OEC at no cost to them, he said.
Second is the automatic extension of employment contracts of seafarers, so that there will be no issues when these seafarers travel to other ports, he pointed out.
The POEA did not forget employers as they are granted automatic extensions on their licenses and accreditation, he stressed.
He explained that the automatic extension of licenses and accreditations will allow employers to continue deploying workers and fulfilling existing job orders.
“Ang intention namin is ipa-tuloy tuloy ang deployment nila despite the pandemic, (Our intention is to continue their deployment despite the pandemic),” he said.
Also, he said, the POEA has been disseminating protocols and labor advisories for OFWs so that they will be aware what to do when they return to work.
When asked by Gana what other interventions the government can do and what needs to change in the current situation of OFWs, Olalia said: “First thing is to change how OFWs are perceived.”
“They have to be recognized not just as workers, but as human beings,” he said. “They are not commodities. Sila ay mga tao (They are human beings).”
He pointed out that the State has a responsibility to protect laborers, so they deserve to be protected by the law at all times. Also, he stressed that they need to be guaranteed a safe and humane working environment.
“Importante hindi sila magkasakit, ma-expose sa pandemic, (It’s important that they don’t get sick, or are exposed to the pandemic), at safe and healthy sila (and they are safe and healthy) to do their jobs,” he added.
Last Saturday’s episode of “Tanggol Karapatan” was “Rights of Migrant Workers in the Time of Pandemic.” The program is hosted by Radyo Veritas.