Over a million Filipinos left the country to seek employment abroad while thousands returned home for various reasons in the first nine months of this year, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reported.
Partial data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) showed a total of 1,281,506 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were deployed from January to September – 1,058,029 of whom were sent to various countries as land-based workers while 223,477 were hired as sea-based workers.
POEA noted that of the total overseas deployment during the first three quarters of the year, a majority or 736,684 were rehires while 321,345 were new hires.
Last November, the POEA temporarily stopped the deployment of new hires in a bid to control illegal recruitment operations involving certain officials and employees of the agency.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III also reported that close to 1.2 million OFWs have been repatriated and provided reintegration assistance in 2017.
Bello said a total of 1,170,514 OFWs received welfare and protection programs, including reintegration and repatriation services from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
From July to October of this year, Bello said 54,470 OFWs and their families benefitted from the government’s intensified reintegration programs, including skills training and livelihood assistance.
Bello said 36,438 OFWs, mostly from the Middle East, were repatriated and provided with on-site assistance and P20,000 financial aid each.
A total of 9,512 repatriated OFWs were provided additional cash grants of P6,000 each while 13,245 OFWs were given food and hygiene kits each.
In connection with the 90-day amnesty program of Saudi Arabia for undocumented and stranded foreign nationals, OWWA also recorded a total of 15,839 Filipino migrant workers who took up the amnesty, 10,011 of whom were repatriated to the Philippines.
The DOLE released a total of P514,412,350.21 to provide various assistance to OFWs, such as food and hygiene kits, legal counseling and stress debriefing, medical and psycho-social services and training assistance.
OWWA also provided post-repatriation services to 14,165 OFWs, 4,343 of whom received welfare services, including medical, psychosocial counseling, stress debriefing, transport and accommodation, while 1,630 have been listed for employment facilitation or training services and 2,625 were provided with livelihood assistance.
DOLE likewise provided legal assistance to 4,829 OFWs while 354 OFWs were given reintegration assistance in the form of small and medium enterprise establishment in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and 384 were granted educational assistance through the Commission on Higher Education, Department of Education and the Department of Budget and Management.
Bello said DOLE sought bigger budget for next year’s repatriation program because the government needs to prepare for the possible repatriation of OFWs in Qatar and other countries in the Middle East due to prevailing conflicts.
“The situation in Qatar is still stable, but we cannot just relax our guard, we are talking of 240,000 Filipinos staying there,” Bello said.