Exit Visas, loans and cases among the challenges besetting OFW repatriation – Bello

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DAVAO CITY — It might just be as easy as ABC if one says the Philippine government repatriates thousands of its overseas Filipino workers, but the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is facing a lot of challenges in the process from the lack of exit visa, to unpaid loans and to other cases that some of them are facing while in the foreign land.

In all those, there is a legal implication, said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III in a statement released on Saturday.

In the light of all these, Bello admitted “It needs a lot of work and process, unlike the usual procedure”.

Aside from those, issues like in its effort to repatriate overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from the host countries to lockdowns being imposed due to the threat of coronavirus pandemic are continuing challenges that need to be dealt with.

Bello said, “In repatriating our OFWs, we also have to consider the lockdowns imposed by countries where they are working”.

These aside from the cases of those who went abroad as a tourist, or, went on hiding while working with an employer.

Tourist visa

“Nag-tourist visa ako, kasi mas madali, pagdating doon, nakakita ako ng employer as recommended ng kaibigan ko, pero undocumented ako,” says Marilou of Davao region in an interview with Newsline.

Marilou, a mother of three young kids told Newsline “There are hundreds of OFWs like her case abroad, mahirap pero kinaya ko dahil sa mga anak ko, pero nung feeling ko mamamatay na ako sa hirap at sakit kasi pinapalo na ako, tumawag ako sa Mama ko at nagpa-rescue na ako”.

Taking her out of her employer was a challenge because the Philippine embassy cannot locate her that easy, Marilou did not have an agency in the Philippines as she was hired abroad and the only document she got was a passport and the government is not aware of any details regarding her travel.

Good thing, Marilou was able to borrow a mobile phone from her fellow household worker who is a Lebanese and she started to connect to her parents.

Her mother asked the help of the DOLE when her employer started to physically abuse her and she was sent home last January, the eve of the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

Bello added, “It really gets frustrating when foreign employers refuse to give the exit visas of our OFWs to stop them from returning to the Philippines. There are many employers like that abroad”.

“Repatriation of OFWs also becomes difficult to achieve when they still have loans to settle and complaints to face,” Bello said.

He remarked that bigger funding will not bring home displaced migrant workers in the absence of other equally important factors.

Bello together with other officials attended a hybrid public hearing of the House Public Accounts Committee chaired by Rep. Mike Defensor on Friday regarding the challenges experienced by OFWs affected by the pandemic.

House Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Ray “LRay” Villafuerte pushed for more funds to boost government efforts to bring home the troubled migrant workers.

Bello, however, noted that the best solution to the problem of OFWs is still the tightly coordinated efforts of all concerned government agencies and the private sector. –Editha Z. Caduaya

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