Unfunded OFW department launches action hotline
MANILA, Philippines — Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in distress and their families now have a 24/7 hotline to call for requests for urgent repatriation.
Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople said OFWs in distress or their families or next of kin need only to call the One Repatriation Center hotline 1348 to get immediate assistance.
“Our vision is that no mother has to borrow money just to take a ship to Manila and go around looking for someone to ask for help because her daughter is being abused abroad,” Ople said during the One Repat-DMW (Department of Migrant Workers) launch on Wednesday.
The incipient department launched the hotline even as it awaited its allocation from Congress once it convenes next week.
The DMW is not expected to be operational until next year after it gets its first official budget, but the hotline will be based at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) office in Mandaluyong City, which already has a budget and was transferred to Ople’s supervision.
The One Repat-DMW will operate on a 24/7 basis, with case and welfare officers working three shifts daily and can accommodate calls and walk-ins on regular workdays while requests can be made through the 1348 hotline on weekends.
The center also has a satellite office at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in Pasay City.
6,000 repatriation pleas yearly
A longtime migrant rights advocate, Ople said OFWs and their families used to knock on the doors of several government agencies to ask for help to rescue the distressed OFWs.
“It’s heartbreaking to see families from the provinces traveling all the way to Manila, incurring needless debts and expenses, and dealing with long periods of anxiety while waiting for the response from government agencies,” she said.
POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia said that each year, they receive around 6,000 requests for the repatriation of OFWs in distress. Ople said the center will work closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), particularly Undersecretary for migrant workers affairs Eduardo de Vega, in countries where there are no Philippine overseas labor offices.
De Vega on Wednesday said there were around 115 Filipinos in Sri Lanka seeking to be repatriated and the DFA may bring them home before the end of the month.
De Vega said the DFA would fund the repatriation and this might be done via commercial flights. He also assured those awaiting repatriation that they will not become displaced workers in the Philippines as the Owwa has a reintegration program.
The DFA placed Sri Lanka under Alert Level 2 amid economic and political turmoil, although the parliament of the South Asian nation elected a new president on Wednesday.