Press Release
February 5, 2018

Senate approves OFW Handbook bill

The Senate approved today on third and final reading a bill which would mandate the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to publish and disseminate a standard handbook on the rights and responsibilities of Filipino migrant workers.

Senate Bill No. 192, or the "Handbook for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) Act" was passed with 18 affirmative votes, zero negative votes and zero abstention.

The bill's author, Senator Manny Pacquiao, said that it was the obligation of government to take care of the millions of OFWs all over the world, "by providing them with standard printed information."

"We want to equip our OFWs with the necessary information they can access once they are out there in the global marketplace," Pacquiao said.

Senator Joel Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development and co-author of the measure, cited the importance of the OFW handbook especially to Filipino household service workers.

"In the face of increasing number of abuses against OFWs, perhaps, we can go back to the basics by equipping our workers abroad with the right information at the right time and in the right way," Villanueva said.

Apart from Pacquiao and Villanueva, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Senator Richard Gordon also served as co-authors of the measure.

Under the bill, the POEA would be mandated "to develop, publish, disseminate and update periodically a handbook on the rights and responsibilities of migrant workers as provided by Philippine laws and the existing labor and social laws of the receiving country that will protect and guarantee the rights of migrant workers."

"The handbook shall be written in simple words than can be easily understood with translation in local language as may be necessary," the bill said. It added that the book should be issued to all Filipino migrant workers "free of charge."

Pacquaio explained that the proposed handbook would be a "convenient" reference that would inform OFWs about their rights and responsibilities, teach them what recourses they have when they face common difficult situations abroad, and provide them with a directory of relevant government agencies.

He said that the handbook could help better protect OFWs while working abroad, given the spate of cases of abuse towards OFW recently.

"Our migrant workers are vulnerable to abuses. We do not want them to be powerless," Pacquiao said.

He added that while the 23- year old RA 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 authorized the POEA to "undertake other programs or resort to other modes of information and dissemination campaign," existing efforts by government agencies to provide OFWs with such handbooks are "limited and inconsistent."

"As we continue to deploy millions of OFWs every year, let us be one in providing our modern heroes one practical help: a handbook loaded with information they need to survive and thrive in the global marketplace," Pacquiao concluded. (Olivia Caunan)

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