Migrant Workers Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople on Monday said that she would hold meetings with other government agencies to discuss how to safeguard the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Interviewed on GMA News' Balitanghali, Ople said she would talk with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to address the issues of OFWs, particularly in Saudi Arabia.
“Pinag-aaralan namin ‘yung naiwan na proposal and recommendation doon sa term ni [former] Labor Secretary [Silvestre] Bello III at mag-uusap din kami ni [DOLE] Secretary Benny Laguesma and I think kailangan ko rin makausap ‘yung bagong Secretary of Foreign Affairs,” she said.
(We are studying the remaining proposal and recommendation in the term of [former] Labor Secretary [Silvestre] Bello III and we will also talk to [DOLE] Secretary Benny Laguesma and I think I also need to talk to the new Secretary of Foreign Affairs.)
“Kasi medyo maselan din. Napakaganda ang relasyon natin sa Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. So, ayaw naman natin na kapag lalapit tayo sa kanila para pag-usapan ito ay discordant voices. Kailangan united at ‘yung tatlong ahensyang ito klaro ang direksyon,” she added.
(Because it's a bit delicate too. We have a very good relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. So, when we approach them, we don't want to have discordant voices. We need to be united so that the three agencies have a clear direction.)
To recall, Bello imposed a household service worker deployment ban on Saudi Arabia due to the unpaid salaries of OFWs.
In 2016, the Philippine government repatriated the OFWs after they stopped receiving their salaries following the economic crisis in the Middle Eastern country brought by the plunge in oil prices in the world market.
The OFWs, through the help of state lawyers, won the case over their unsettled pay in Saudi Arabia, though they have still not received their back wages.
Meanwhile, Ople noted that the demand for Filipino healthcare workers and seafarers has increased as many countries return to normalcy after more than two years of the pandemic.
“Actually, dalawang ambassadors na ang nagpahiwatig kung pwede nang dagdagan ‘yung mga health workers mula sa atin. ‘Yung ambassadors ng Germany at Singapore ‘yun ang pahiwatig sa akin,” she stated.
(Actually, two ambassadors have already indicated if we can increase the number of health workers. The ambassadors of Germany and Singapore, that's what they said to me.)
“And then malaki pa rin ang demand for our seafarers. In fact, halos nag-normalize na from the pandemic times,” she continued.
(And then there is still great demand for our seafarers. In fact, it has almost normalized from the pandemic times.)
Aside from healthcare workers and seafarers, the DMW chief said there was also a high demand for factory and agricultural workers in South Korea and Israel.
Asked if she would recommend removing the deployment cap of healthcare workers abroad, Ople clarified that she would first have to discuss the matter with the Department of Health.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) earlier reported that more than 2,000 healthcare workers have been deployed abroad so far this year, which is still far from the 7,500 yearly deployment cap. — Mel Matthew Doctor/DVM, GMA News