DOLE assures support for labor force, OFWs under Duterte admin

MANILA-- The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Tuesday reaffirmed the commitment of President Rodrigo Duterte to provide support and services to the Filipino labor force, especially migrant workers.

During the pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA) briefing in MalacaAan, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III gave updates on his agency's key initiatives and programs aimed at promoting the welfare of Filipino workers in the country and abroad.

"We have increased labor opportunities because alam mo ang hindi natin nalalaman, while the President is providing protection to our OFWs, ang final goal ng ating Presidente is to get them back, repatriate all of them, because the President is aware of the social implication of Filipinos going abroad to look for jobs," Bello said.

"The President has seen to it that their life is more comfortable, more secured, and their stay abroad are properly attended to," he added.

In a bid to ease the burden of so-called modern day heroes, Bello said the Labor department plans to do away with the time-consuming process of securing Overseas Employment Certificates (OECs).

The required document to work abroad will be replaced by the iDOLE or Integrated Department of Labor and Employment System, which Bello said will be given to all "bona fide" overseas Filipino workers.

"So they don't have to go to the POEA every time they go and they come back and they go back again. All they have to do is show their ID, the iDOLE and that will serve as their license to go abroad, come back here, and then go back anytime they want to go back," Bello said.

The Labor chief said other government offices are also integrated in iDOLE such as the Social Security System, Pag-IBIG, and Philippine Health Insurance Corp.

"That to me is a major gift of the President to our OFWs who we always call as the 'bagong bayani'," he said.

Bello likewise cited the establishment of 17 one-stop service centers throughout the country that has so far assisted over a million OFWs.

Another good news for Filipino workers is the creation of an OFW bank, which Bello said will be formally launched in October.

The Cabinet official also reported that out of 13,000 migrant Filipino workers who applied for amnesty in Saudi Arabia, 6,000 have been repatriated.

"We only have now 2,400 OFWs who are still there and have to be repatriated," Bello said noting that some of the OFWs opted to stay after securing a new job.

He said these workers will be sent home on July 12 through Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific.

Meanwhile, Secretary Bello said the government has already reduced the unemployment rate to a "very modest percentage" of 1.7 percent.

He said 139,000 were hired on-the-spot during 1,800 job fairs conducted by DOLE throughout the country.

He also cited Dutertenomics, a program where PHP6 trillion will be spent for a major infrastructure plan, which is expected to create two million jobs annually.

'ENDO a thing of the past'

On President Duterte's promise to end the unlawful form of contractualization, Bello affirmed that the practice is a "thing of the past" under the Duterte administration.

"Definitely, endo is going to or has already ended. Why? Because management and employers realized that this is unlawful. And that it is unlawful for them to engage in endo. So in fairness to the management group, to the employers, they all committed to stop the practice of endo, the practice of 555," he said.

Bello is referring to the practice of employers where they hire workers for five months, terminate them, and then rehire them again for another five months.

On the other hand, the Secretary admitted that the agency failed to regularize all Filipino employees under laws on contractualization.

"Medyo nahirapan kami dahil unang-una, we are supervising almost 900,000 business establishment throughout the country. And I am very sorry to tell you that we only have a little over 500 labor law compliance officers, inspectors for short," he said.

To address the challenge, Bello said they asked the President to provide additional inspectors. The agency also sought the help of labor unions and employers' organizations to nominate individuals that can be trained and utilized as inspectors.

More robust economic growth, safer PH under Duterte

During the same press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Moody's Investors Service maintained the Philippines credit rating of Baa2 and stable outlook, indicating the country's strong economic performance marked by its rapid real GDP growth, improvement in debt manageability supported by a tighter fiscal policy, and the ability to withstand domestic political risk.

"The Duterte administration continues to sustain the robust economic growth of the country and make it more inclusive by attracting more businesses, investing in human capital and increasing infrastructure spending," Abella said.

The Palace official also reported on the "very productive and fruitful" meeting of President Duterte with His Excellency Ambassador Sung Kim of the United States of America on Monday (July 3).

He said the Ambassador reiterated the US government's full support for the Philippine government operations and rehabilitation efforts in Marawi.

The Ambassador also conveyed to the President the US government's approval of the duty-free entry of travel goods from the Philippines to the United States, which will generate 70,000 new domestic jobs and an additional PHP5 billion in revenues annually.

The Palace official also reported that the United Nations World Tourism Organization Secretary General Taleb Rifai has expressed his support for the Philippines as he calls out to everyone to experience the Philippines.

"This assures that the Philippines continues to be a safe and relaxing place for foreign and local tourists, which will further increase the country's investment and business expansion," Abella noted.

Source: Philippines News Agency