The regional consultation with NCR-based OFWs and families conducted by the the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) last May 13, 2011 at Microtel, Pasay City became an occasion of venting out primary OFW issues as land-based and sea-based workers, representatives of OFW Family Circles (OFCs), displaced migrant workers, and youth/OWWA scholars enumerated critical matters affecting them.
“Ito talaga ang ine-expect namin” (This is what we expect to happen), said Ma. Teresa B. Capa, Officer-in-Charge of OWWA Regional Welfare Office-National Capital Region, in addressing the participants who fervently shared traumatic anecdotes of their experiences while working overseas.
The aim in holding the regional consultation was to identify the views, needs and aspirations of the OFWs and their families to help the government shape a national program development and policy direction that would foster the sector’s growth. Bringing these issues to the fore straight from the stakeholders’ mouths would help the authorities map out strategies and policies/programs to help address the needs of the sector.
Based on the inputs collected from previous workshops and discussed during the event, the NCR organizers have validated the following major issues: employer abuse in many forms, salary, contract violation (substitution/alteration), exorbitant placement fee, homesickness, lack of work benefits, lack of medical assistance, and illegal recruitment. Domestic struggles also arose like burgeoning debts partly due to delayed remittances, education of children, and broken or dysfunctional families, among other things. Not wasting the opportunity, the participants suggested health cards, establishment of a bank and hospital for OFWs, martial arts training and inter-faith values formation seminar, to name a few, in addition to more responsive government programs and policies that have been in place for the OFW sector.
In her keynote speech, OWWA Administrator Carmelita S. Dimzon told the participants that the regional consultation serves as a preliminary activity to the National Congress of OFWs and Families slated on June 7, 2011 and that all collected outputs from 17 OWWA regional offices will be summarized and drafted into a manifesto for presentation to President Benigno C. Aquino who is guest of honor of that event.
She also pre-empted the OFCs on the salient features of the National Congress, including the launch of the Two Billion Reintegration Support Fund Program.
The Two Billion Reintegration Support Fund Program is a comprehensive livelihood and reintegration program designed to prepare and equip the OFWs and their families once they decide to stay in the country for good. Included in the program is a loan package where qualified borrowers can avail from P300,000 to two million pesos at 7.5 interest per annum. This is in partnership with Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines.
Aside from Administrator Dimzon, other OWWA officials present during the regional consultation were Deputy Administrator Josefino Torres, Ms. Elvira Ador of General Administrative Services and Focal Person for NCR, and officers of regional welfare offices led by Ms. Emma Sinclair of Regional Operation Coordinating Center and Ms. Cynthia Lamban of Region IV-A.