Migrante International welcomed the impending appointment of Silvestre Bello III as incoming secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
The DOLE is the department under which attached agencies Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) are placed. The POEA and the OWWA are among the lead agencies in charge of services and welfare for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“We welcome someone like Silvestre Bello III especially following the dismal and anti-OFW leadership of outgoing DOLE Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz. We call on Bello to steer the DOLE, the POEA and OWWA towards working for better job conditions, better protection and welfare services for OFWs. We trust that the incoming secretary will veer away from Baldoz’ non-consultative and treacherous labor and welfare policies in relation to our migrant workers,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.
Martinez said that since Baldoz was appointed as POEA administrator and later as DOLE chief, she had been at the helm of gradually and surely transforming the government into “a mega-recruitment agency” with the main thrust of marketing OFWs’ cheap labor instead of regulating labor export and ensuring welfare and protection for OFWs.
Baldoz was the main implementor of the “paradigm shift” in the POEA, following Administrative Order 247 by then Pres. Gloria Arroyo which instructed a “refocusing (of) its functions from regulation to full-blast markets development efforts, the exploration of frontier, fertile job markets for expatriate Filipino workers”.
Baldoz was also responsible for implementing a “PH-Saudi unified contract” that resulted in unending and increasing labor rights violations of OFWs in Saudi Arabia. She was also the main proponent behind the “SuperMaids” program and the dysfunctional Php3.044-billion “Assist WELL Program”.
As DOLE chief, Bello will also be the chairman of the OWWA Board of Trustees, in charge mainly of allotting and disbursing OWWA funds and over-seeing the agency’s welfare services and benefits to OFWs.
“We call on Bello to include in his first urgent measures a full and independent audit of alleged abuse and misuse of OWWA funds, and the immediate release of benefits and claims to thousands of OWWA claimants.”
Martinez added that it is also very positive that Bello had since been an advocate of the resumption of peace talks.
“We fully support national industrialization and genuine agrarian land reform as the fundamental solution to the phenomenon of forced migration of our OFWs. This is something that should be addressed in the resumption of the peace talks. As DOLE chief, Bello will be in a strategic position to grasp the overall labor conditions in the point-of-view of Filipino workers here and abroad.”
Martinez said that Migrante International is very open to hold a dialogue with Bello to discuss with him urgent issues and matters concerning OFWs. “We will be presenting our position paper on changes we want to see in a Duterte presidency on June 7, Filipino Migrants’ Day.” ###