“More than a manual, a blue print to solve, if not lessen OFW woes, is needed.”

Thus said today by a migrant rights group in reaction to the recently signed and published inter-agency Joint Manual of Operations in Providing Assistance to Migrant Workers and other Filipinos Overseas.

A copy of the manual of operations was posted August 18 on the POEA website signed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. Del Rosario; Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz; Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman, represented by Undersecretary Parishya Taradji; Health Secretary Janette Loreto-Garin, represented by Assistant Secretary Gerardo V. Bayugo; Philippine Overseas Employment Administration chief Hans Leo J. Cacdac; and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration head Rebecca Calzado.

Officers and members of the House of Representatives Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs (COWA) served as witnesses during the signing of the Joint Manual of Operations.

The Joint Manual of Operations is a document that outlines the roles and responsibilities of OFW-concerned agencies and overseas offices to effect a cohesive, seamless, efficient, and effective delivery of government services to overseas Filipinos, particularly to those who are in distress.

John Leonard Monterona, regional coordinator of Migrante-Middle East, said that the manual is an inter-agency document outlining processes of requesting and providing assistance to OFWs, which are easier said than done.

“The OFW-relevant agencies have been actually doing what were written in the Joint Manual for years characterized by ineptitude ​and inefficiency in providing assistance to distressed, stranded and undocumented OFWs; the agencies have formally put it in writing,” Monterona averred.

He claimed that the manual is aimed to resolve the issue of ‘who will do what’ in providing on-site assistance to OFWs.

Monterona doubted that the manual will eliminate the usual finger-pointing among officials of OFW-serving agencies in the Philippines and its offices abroad.

Monterona said, “The manual failed to take into consideration the specific situation in each OFW country of destination and the limitations imposed by the host governments.”

He cited for instance in Saudi Arabia wherein the OFW-serving agencies’ offices are located in Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi’s main cities.

“What if the distressed OFW’s location is in the Northern region of Saudi Arabia -thousands kilometers away from Riyadh or Jeddah -how could these Philippine government agencies promptly provide the needed assistance? What mechanism and action plan in placed to help the distressed?” Monterona continued.

“Philippine embassy and POLO-OWWA officials could not even defend a ran away Filipino domestic helper being slapped by her employer in front of these officials,” Monterona lamented.

Monterona claimed that in several instances Philippine embassy and POLO-OWWA officials have been helpless when distressed OFWs sought assistance on how they would assert the favorable ruling of Saudi’s Labor office because the employer-defendant didn’t honor the ruling of the Saudi labor court. The only explanation it can provide is that there is no Sheri​f​f system in Saudi Arabia.

“More than the inter-agency Joint Manual of Operations, what we, the OFWs need is a blue print, country-specific, that will solve our woes and predicament. A blue print that will provide us protection of our well being, rights and welfare,” Monterona said.

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