Friday, September 24, 2010

Expanded OFW protection

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), together with the Department of Foreign Affairs and other government agencies with overseas Filipino workers-related mandates, yesterday issued the rules and regulations covering the implementation of Republic Act No. 10022, shifting up to a higher gear the government of President Benigno S. Aquino III toward the protection of the welfare and interest of eight million overseas Filipino workers.

R. A. 10022 is officially titled the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, As Amended, Further Improving the Standard of Protection and Promotion of the Welfare of Migrant Workers, Their Families and Overseas Filipinos in Distress, and For Other Purposes.
“The implementation of R. A. 10022 is a challenge that puts the DOLE at an even bigger forefront of OFW social protection,” said Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, who had brushed aside comments that OFWs had been “forgotten” when President Aquino did not mention them in his State of the Nation Address last Monday.
“This is the government’s answer to those comments,” she said, noting that with R.A. 10022, the groundwork has been laid for the expanded protection of the country’s “modern-day heroes” in pursuit of the President’s 22-point agenda for labor and employment.
Baldoz emphasized that 11 of the 22 items in the agenda are OFW-related and that the 11 agenda items are for the protection of OFWs and for enhancing their competitiveness.
The rules and regulations spell out in details the salient protective measures of the new law, among which are:
  1. Emphasis on stronger bilateral and multilateral relations with receiving countries for protection. Interpreting provision of free skills and livelihood programs as expanding free access to such programs;
  2. Criteria for host countries (guaranteeing protection), subject to concurrence to “take positive and concrete measures” to protect the rights of migrant workers; and clarifying a three-step process that involves a) DFA certifications on compliance by host countries; b) POEA resolution allowing deployment to complying host countries; and c) POEA processing of workers’ documents to countries identified in POEA resolutions.
  3. Inclusion of amendments to prohibited acts that may constitute illegal recruitment by licensed and unlicensed agencies, as well as other prohibited acts, such as loans, decking practice in OFW medical examinations; and recruitment by suspended agencies;
  4. Anti-illegal recruitment programs that include institutionalizing the role of LGUs; added capability of POEA lawyers; prosecution; and operation and surveillance to apprehend illegal recruiters;
  5. Money claims. Inclusion of voluntary arbitration;
  6. Repatriation and mechanism for repatriation. Responsibility for repatriation with principal/employer and licensed recruitment agency; 48-hour notice rule and 15-day period  for countries with exit visa requirements; provisions on repatriation of underage workers and asserting penalties and liabilities for recruiters who recruit underage migrant workers;
  7. Overseas Filipino Resource Centers will now have additional required personnel, such as psychologists, etc. and be under direct POLO supervision;
  8. Institutionalizing the National Reintegration Center for OFWs;
  9. Protection from abusive medical clinics;
  10. Ensuring the use of the legal assistance fund for foreign lawyers and attorneys’ fees and for filing of cases against erring or abusive employers;
  11. Compulsory insurance to cover agency-hired workers for accidental death, natural death, permanent total disablement, repatriation costs, subsistence allowance benefit, money claims, compassionate visit, medical evaluation, and medical repatriation.
 “With the publication of the implementing rules and regulations, I now direct the family of agencies under the DOLE that have OFW-related mandates to craft their own internal rules and regulations for the smooth operationalization and implementation of the provisions of the law,” Baldoz said.


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