The Alliance of Bonafide Recruiters for OFWs’ Advancement and Development (ABROAD), a coalition composed of recruitment agency associations, on Monday said it supports the creation of a Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW), emphasizing the need for a line agency focused on the welfare and well-being of the country’s over 2 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

ABROAD co-convenor Mary Cecile Francisco said that their group agreed with President Rodrigo Duterte, who in his State of the Nation Address said that the establishment of a department specifically for OFWs is needed “to ensure their welfare, protection and their access to government services.”

“We appeal to our legislators to pass a law that will create a DOFW.”

According to Francisco, “we welcome all efforts of government to improve and streamline the services and processes involved in the deployment of OFWs. Thus, we wholeheartedly support the President’s call for the establishment of a department dedicated to OFWs, and appeal to our legislators to pass a law that will create a DOFW that will truly be fair and responsive to the needs of our modern-day heroes,” she added.

“Many of our countrymen continue to seek employment abroad in order to help their families, and the discussions leading to the creation of a DOFW will allow all the stakeholders involved––OFWs, placement and recruitment agencies, legislators, policymakers, NGOs, civil society groups, and the government offices involved in OFW deployment––to sit down and find ways to better protect the interests of our OFWs.

“We have been government’s partner in nation-building, especially during times of economic downturns, and in fact have assumed the role as the shock troops or the first line of defense in ensuring that OFWs’ rights and welfare are protected,” Francisco  explained.  She added that the coalition will play an active role in highlighting the industry’s contribution to the overseas employment and migration program as well as in economic growth.

“We have been government’s partner in nation-building, especially during times of economic downturns.”

Francisco revealed that ABROAD is a coalition initially composed of at least eight different recruitment agency associations. These are the Australia snd New Zealand Association of Employment Providers of the Philippines, Inc. (ANZAEPP), the Association of Philippine Licensed Agencies for Technical Internship Program (APLATIP), the Association of Professional Philippine Manpower Agencies for China Inc. (APPMAC), the Japan Employment Providers of the Philippines & Consultants’ Association, Inc. (JEPPCA), the Organization of Placement Agencies of the Philippines (OPAP), the Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Inc. (PASEI), the Pilipino Licensed Manpower Agencies for Taiwan (PILMAT), the Philippine Recruitment Agencies Association for Saudi Arabia (PRAASA), and other country-specific organizations that  are in the process of joining the coalition.

These organizations represent more than 500 PRAs and, collectively, have been responsible for providing jobs to over 1 million OFWs, including professionals, skilled workers, and household service or domestic workers.

More PRA recruitment agency associations, said Francisco, plan to join and link up with ABROAD in the coming days. “We want to be as inclusive as possible so that all voices involved in OFW deployment are heard, because all the stakeholders count,” said Francisco, who is also secretary of ANZAEPP and ditector of JEPPCA.

Government relies on the resources of licensed recruitment agencies as partners in addressing unemployment under Section 25 of the Labor Code. The remittances of Filipino workers they deploy are considered major pillars of the Philippine economy.

The latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) pegs the number of OFWs at 2.3 million as of September 2018. In 2018, OFWs remitted a total of 32.21 billion US dollars, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

The foreign remittances and money that went through channels outside of the international banking system drive the growth of our consumer-led economy. 

The President has said that he wants a DOFW put up by the end of the year. Among the legislators who have filed measures creating a DOFW is former presidential aide and current Senator Bong Go, who last month filed Senate Bill 202, or the Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2019. 

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