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Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Study: OFWs reintegration weakest link in PHL policy

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ORGANIZATIONAL challenges, fragmented programs, and lack of data continue to hamper the reintegration services of the government, making it the “weakest link” in the country’s migration governance, according to a new study from Friedrich Naumann Foundation.

The 22-page paper, entitled Post-Pandemic Reintegration Efforts for Overseas Filipino Workers written by Alvin P. Ang, Marie T. Magante, Marie V. Militante, and Jeremaiah M. Opiniano, highlighted the gaps in the reintegration programs for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

It noted how the frequent change in the government agency tasked to handle reintegration affected its delivery.

It was initially handled by the Well Fund in the 1980s, before it was later transferred to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Re-Placement and Monitoring Center (RPMC), and the National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO).

The NRCO was transferred back and forth between OWWA and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) before eventually ending up with the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) this year.

“From 2007 to 2022, however, the NRCO underwent a series of organizational transitions that stifled its fullest potential to make migrant reintegration a broader development effort (not just by agencies within the migrant sector,” the study said.

Other limitations

The limited participation of other government agencies in the government’s reintegration programs restricted the services returning OFWs received, which were usually limited to economic interventions such as cash aids and loans.  Another challenge for the government in consolidating its reintegration intervention is the lack of a “reliable set of data of returning migrants.”

The lack of data, the study pointed out, was somewhat addressed during Covid-19 pandemic, when the government kept track of the over 1.8 million OFWs who went home. Of these, 728,826 availed themselves of reintegration services.

To fix the said gaps, the paper proposed the review of the 2017 National Master Plan on Reintegration so it can incorporate the Bridging Recruitment and Reintegration program of the United Nations.

The updated plan can include careful implementation of economic reintegration programs, additional social reintegration programs, and psychosocial services.

Ongoing initiatives

The study recognized the ongoing efforts by the DMW, which only became operational this year, to improve government reintegration services.

Among the DMW initiatives commended in the report was the agency’s plan to strengthen the nationwide implementation of reintegration programs with the deployment of regional reintegration offices next year.

Also recognized was the agency’s implementation of its full-cycled reintegration framework and its use of the OFW Reintegration Advisor of the International Organization for Migration, which will provide its users online access to service from other government agencies.

This was confirmed by DMW Assistant Secretary Venecio V. Legaspi in an interview. He said it will provide OFWs with reintegration services, which will include local employment facilitation,  reskilling or upskilling, and entrepreneurship among others via referral system.

As for the issue on reliable reintegration data, the DMW official said they are aiming to launch a mobile-based monitoring system before the end of the year.  He noted the initiative will allow the government to keep track of OFWs, who will need reintegration services.

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