The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) through Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello is seeking an additional Php2 billion in next year’s budget for the sole purpose of repatriation of distressed workers.
According to Sec. Bello, “I made an appeal for additional funding because we never know when we will need to repatriate our OFWs and we cannot always rely on the generosity of host country.”
This came after Congress only approved Php13 billion for the government agency even when they had initially asked for Php17 billion.
According to data from the Labor agency, there had been over 22,000 distressed workers repatriated since 2016. Just last Thursday, August 16, around 100 arrived in Manila [See – Government Pays for Fees, Flights of 100 OFWs Granted Amnesty in UAE].
While data from the 2016 survey done by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that there are at least 2 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) doing various jobs across the world, the number could have jumped significantly in recent years.
But it is also possible that the number has decreased, especially because of certain policies from host countries as well as other reasons. For example, Saudization has greatly decreased the number of Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia, mainly because of the policy that require Saudi nationals to fill up the workforce.
Government policies are not the only ones that lead to repatriation or termination of OFWs’ contracts in the countries they are working in. There had been many times when the workers absconded after suffering in the hands of their employers.
There are also many who had been duped by illegal recruiters who promised them high-paying jobs abroad with awesome benefits but they ended up as undocumented workers that are forced to work in low-paying jobs with dismal working conditions.
Thanks to initiatives from the government, bilateral labor agreements had been created between the Philippines and a number of countries, most importantly in Kuwait, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and other countries. These agreements aim to protect the Filipino workers.
Still, even with these treaties, a lot of OFWs continue to suffer and end up running away. Thus, DOLE believes that more money is needed for repatriation even though some countries have agreed to cover the costs or waive the fines and fees to release the workers.