The National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) brought together representatives from different sectors for the National Reintegration Summit held last August 30, 2017 at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
Titled “Ang Pagbabalikbayan ay ang Bagong Bayanihan”, the event is a culmination of a series of consultations and activities implemented this year under the Enhancing Reintegration Programme for OFWs (ERPO) project. The ERPO project aims to contribute to efforts in enhancing the country’s socio-economic reintegration program under the twin frameworks of migration and development and crisis migration.
The event highlight is the signing of the Reintegration Summit Declaration by representatives of government institutions, non-government organizations, civil society, private organizations, and OFW families. It calls on the stakeholders to initiate the following:
Create a conducive environment to stir investments and create jobs for our people, so that, in the near future, working abroad would only be an option rather than a necessity;
Initiate appropriate policy reforms at the national, local, and/or business levels that will clearly define the role of relevant entities as well as the products and services they offer;
Distinguish reintegration services responsive to specific needs of OF’s such as displaced or distressed OF’s vis-à-vis voluntary returnees;
Improve the service delivery systems on reintegration towards shared outcomes while carrying out respective institutional mandates, by coordinating, converging, process-streamlining, decentralization, technology innovations and enhancing partnerships.
Empower the OF’s and their families to understand clearly, take responsibility and seize the opportunities for reintegration, by communicating to them in an efficient and transparent manner the various pathways in reintegration, including technical procedures and requirements;
Integrate migration in development and/or business planning by sharing good practices, inspirational stories, forecasts, relevant databases and networks on reintegration programmes;
Mobilize appropriate resources and expertise to support the implementation of joint or parallel initiatives on reintegration.
A Call to Action
In his keynote speech during the Summit, Secretary Silvestre Bello III of the Department of Labor and Employment stressed the need for a comprehensive reintegration program in view of global events that have forced OFWs to return home. “Gone are the days of sending our talents abroad. We should start reversing the trend that we have seen for many decades. Pabalikin na sila, hindi iyong tulak nang tulak tayo sa kanila.” he said.
“Enhancing the integration programs for OFWs is well-timed. This will lead to the adoption of a national master plan for migrant reintegration. With the support of everyone, the success of this project is therefore in order. I can see that this Summit will translate into proactive actions for a more holistic and cohesive integration of our OFWs,” he added.
Representing President Rodrigo Duterte at the event, Secretary Bello noted that the President has repeatedly urged various sectors to work together to create a business environment by attracting more investments and creating more jobs so that Filipinos will no longer need to seek employment overseas.
However, he emphasized that the responsibility of OFW reintegration does not rest solely on the DOLE, OWW, and the NRCO. The availability of jobs and businesses, infrastructure, and peace and order, “is everyone’s business,” he said.
He then urged the business sector to open their windows of partnership with the OFWs. “Huwag naman palagi silang customer ninyo. Make them your partners.”
For the OFW families, he asked them to build up their savings and capital from remittances.
For government agencies, he reminded them to “nurture an environment conducive to OFWs” as he called on local governments to “make each city, province, and municipality a haven for our OFWs to come home.”
During the Summit, Assistant Governor Wilhelmina Manalac of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas gave the welcome remarks, and Chief of Mission Marco Boasso of the IOM delivered the opening message. OWW Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac presented the Summit Declaration.
Meanwhile, Myrna Padilla shared her success story as a former domestic worker in Hong Kong who founded and is now the CEO of a business process outsourcing company. Others who expressed support for OFW reintegration on behalf of their respective sectors were Carmelita Nuqui of the Philippine Migrants Watch, Filip Lloi Wycoco of The Global Filipino Investors, and Maria Corazon Imelda Vince Cruz of the OFW Family Circle. — Leda Adelina Beltran