A policy brief on migrant desks in local government units (Second of three parts)

RA 8759, or the PESO Act of 1999, also conducts information-related activities against illegal recruitment. The law also mandated the PESO to assist returning overseas workers (like the recent repatriated workers from Libya) in their reintegration into their hometowns.

Here comes a recent law, RA 10022 (that amended RA 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995), which was enacted prior to the May 2010 elections: section 16d of RA 10022 mandates the local government to establish OFW desks or kiosks in their localities with the task of pre-employment orientation and information dissemination. RA 10022 also mandates LGUs to have their own databases of migrant workers in their localities (Arellano Law Foundation, 2010).

But even before RA 10022, the provisions of RA 8759 related to serving a locality’s overseas workers makes the PESO, de facto, an LGU’s migrant desk (Dominador Aquino, key informant interviewee).

Managing migrant desks

As well, prior to RA 10022, national agencies such as POEA and OWWA have been forging memoranda of agreement (MOA) with LGUs to form OFW desks. While POEA and OWWA forge these MOAs with LGUs separately, structurally these migrant desks serve as a “little POEA” or a “little OWWA” (Jeremaiah Opiniano, 2011b).

In the POEA, for example, OFW desks are “extensions of POEA” (John Rio Bautista, key informant interviewee). OFW desks in LGUs with whom POEA has an MOA do the following: 1) information dissemination about overseas job vacancies and licensed recruitment agencies and licensed recruiters; 2) pre-employment orientation seminars (PEOS) in local communities; 3) provision free overseas calls to OFWs abroad during times of natural or man-made disasters (e.g. Japan earthquake, repatriation from Libya); 4) to have an active and consistent link in the POEA for updates on overseas job opportunities and for the list of licensed recruitment agencies and 5) facilitate programs integrated with OWWA.

Data from POEA’s Workers Employment Division showed there are only 50 municipalities that have “active” OFW desks [see also the appendix for examples of migrant desks, inter-sectoral migrant councils, and migrant centers in LGUs]. Here are some examples of the active ones:

  • The municipality of Gonzaga (in Cagayan province), for example, had held PEOS activities and disseminates OFW-related advisories through radio broadcast over local station DWTG 102.5 MHz FM. The entry of Municipality of Gonzaga came from the POEA’s Illegal Recruitment-Free LGU Partners Initiative, and a MOA was forged with POEA in 2008.
  • The municipality of Ibajay (in Aklan province) also disseminated information about overseas employment through the PEOS and information materials. It also distributed POEA’s anti-illegal recruitment information paraphernalia through barangay officials. The OFW desk is also targeting a partnership with local radio station DYIA to disseminate OFW-related information.
  • The municipality of Maco (in Compostela Valley province), for its part, did school-based PEOS by conducting the PEOS to students of four public high schools there. The OFW desk also helped 50 residents find an overseas job (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration reports, 2011).

But setting up a migrant desk by these LGUs can go a notch higher: forming a migrant council, especially if backed by a local ordinance.

The provinces of La Union and Pampanga are ahead in this area. The two provinces have province-wide councils on overseas migrant affairs and concerns with representatives from local government offices, migrant organizations, and non-government/Church advocacy groups (Malou Alcid, 2007; Edmund Ruga, 2007). Pampanga, now under Gov. Lilia Pineda, took a further step: the province launched earlier this year a Pampanga Action Center for OFW Concerns to serve as a quick-response effort for distressed Pampanga OFWs. The recent repatriation from Libya saw PACOC serve repatriated OFWs from Pampanga.#