MANILA — Several overseas Filipino workers’ (OFW) groups in Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia and Hong Kong on May 24 questioned the proposed Department of Overseas Filipinos (DOFIL), claiming the agency will counter President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign promise of making migration an option and not a necessity. 

Last December, Duterte certified as urgent proposals to create DOFIL which will streamline the processing of OFW requirements and promote and protect the rights of migrant Filipino workers abroad.

The Senate will continue debates on the proposed department this week, with Sen. Joel Villanueva noting that DOFIL will address the needs of OFWs from training, recruitment and reintegration of retiring OFWs.

In a report by ABS-CBN News, several labor groups said the Department will institutionalize the export of Filipino workers. 

Domestic Caretaker Union-Taiwan Director Jasmin Ruas said the proposal doesn’t make sense and the government should focus on helping the unemployed and underemployed in the country.

“Hindi ko sinusuportahan, kasi gusto kong umuwi, at gusto kong umuwi na may trabaho akong makukuha sa Pilipinas,”Ruas said, noting that for her group, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) are enough. 

International Seafarers Action Center President Edwin Dela Cruz, who is also the representative of the Global Council for Migrante International, said DOFIL “institutionalizes” the export of labor, will require additional funds and may displace government workers.

“Makasisira po yan ng kabuhayan ng hindi lang ng mga OFW pati mga tao sa gobyerno,” dela Cruz said.

Sentro ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa Secretary-general Joshua Mata said it was unclear what problems DOFIL will address.


Last year following Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) where he renewed his call for the establishment of a department that will “solely” address the concerns of Filipinos abroad, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) backed the proposed separate agency for OFWs as it will streamline services of separate agencies OWWA, POEA and the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs for Filipinos working abroad.

“We really look forward to a DOFW (Department of OFW) that will be of better service to our brothers and sisters naOFW,” Labor Undersec. Joji Aragon said during a virtual press briefing.

Itong Department of OFW is really envisioned to make our programs and services effective and more efficient,” she added.


In another report by ABS-CBN Newsthe International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) “COVID-19 Impact Assessment on Returned Overseas Filipino Workers” report released on May 20 showed 83 percent of the 8,332 OFWs interviewed by the UN agency from September to December 2020 were still searching for a job three months after coming back to the Philippines.

“There was a slightly higher rate of unemployment amongst females than males, at 84 percent compared to 82 percent, as well as amongst sea-based compared to land-based OFWs,” the IOM said, noting the figures were documented when the Philippines’ unemployment rate rose to at least 10.2 percent in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic affected the country’s economy and forced businesses to close.

“OFWs stated their biggest need was to obtain employment, with over 78 percent of all returnees identifying income generation as their greatest challenge,” the IOM said.

“The general trend for OFWs is that very few utilize the skill sets acquired overseas when they return home to the Philippines. For the 14 percent of OFWs who gained employment post-arrival in the Philippines, there were very few OFWs who worked in the same industry or utilized their skills learned abroad,” it explained.

IOM also noted that 48 percent or almost half of returned OFWs surveyed reported over 60 percent drop in their household income while 19 percent of OFWs revealed their contracts were terminated early and over half of them did not receive their separation of compensation pay.

“Sea-based OFWs had a prevalence of 11 percent of early contract termination while land-based OFWs had a much higher prevalence at 21 percent. Land-based workers also represented a larger proportion of the total cases recorded with 17 percent versus two percent with sea-based workers. Males had a higher prevalence of contract termination than females at 20 percent versus 18 percent,” the IOM said.

“The likelihood of non-payment was higher amongst sea-based workers at 62 percent compared to 59 percent of terminated land-based workers. Female OFWs had a greater likelihood of not receiving separation or compensation pay with 66 percent of terminated female OFWs compared to 59 percent of terminated male OFWs,” it said.