06 January 2024
The return of Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) deployment to pre-pandemic levels is not something that the Philippine government should be proud of. It is yet another proof that after four years since COVID-19 hit the world, the Philippines continues to fail in creating decent jobs at home. It shows that the country under the Bongbong Marcos regime is still not developing its manufacturing and agriculture sectors and is therefore unable to provide employment to Filipinos.
This is our reaction to Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) OIC Hans Cacdac’s statement before a press briefing on January 4 in which he clearly regarded the spike in OFW deployment as a success. The 2.5 million overseas employment certificate (OEC) and passes issued by the government in 2023 translates to more than 6,800 Filipinos leaving the country each day. These figures only mean that the number of Filipinos who are forced to leave their families in the Philippines in order to find employment abroad continues to increase.
These figures also mean an increase in state exaction from OFWs, as the OEC is one of the many burdens that we OFWs complain about. While technically free, the OEC is included in the documentation fees that OFWs pay to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration or POEA. While OFWs are told that they can apply online for an OEC, the DMW’s online apps always malfunction, forcing OFWs to travel to Philippine embassies and consulates and creating opportunities for scammers of various kinds.
What Cacdac does not mention is the increasing number of Filipinos who are victimized by illegal recruitment and human trafficking. The Bureau of Immigration recorded 6,000 victims of human trafficking in the first quarter of 2023. Many OFWs have filed cases against illegal recruiters and scammers like former Cebu City councilor Prisca Nina Mabatid, CEO of PCVC Opportunities Abroad, Pinoy Care Visa Center, and PCVC-Opportunities Abroad. These figures also do not paint a rosy picture of the jobs situation in the Philippines.
We also worry about another accomplishment that Cacdac mentions — the shortening of the accreditation process for foreign employers from 20-30 days to 7-15 days. We certainly hope that this does not mean reducing or letting go of standards for legitimate employers. Failure to properly weed out unscrupulous and abusive employers will directly have a negative effect on OFWs’ living and working conditions, rights and even lives.
The DMW and the Bongbong Marcos regime should seriously reconsider their uncritical celebration of the Philippine government’s labor export program. ###