By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

APPRECIATION. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. waves to families of overseas Filipino workers during the “Pamaskong Handog Para sa Pamilyang OFW” at the Kalayaan grounds of Malacañang Palace in Manila on Friday (Dec. 30, 2022). The gift-giving event marks the first anniversary since the signing of the law that created the Department of Migrant Workers. (PNA photo by Rey S. Baniquet)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. vowed to strengthen the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) as he honors overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on Rizal Day which commemorates the 126th anniversary of the martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal.

In a speech during the Pamaskong Handog Para sa Pamilyang OFW in Malacanang on Friday, the chief executive hailed all Filipinos abroad for their contribution to the country’s economy as they work to provide a better future for their families back home.

Malapit po sa akin ang mga OFW at ang kanilang mga pamilya. Kaya naman sa ating administrasyon, lalo nating pinagtitibigay ang Department of Migrant Workers upang mas mabilis ang serbisyo at pagkalinga para sa ating mga bagong bayani (OFWs and their families are close to my heart. Under this administration, we will further strengthen the DMW) to provide fast and efficient service to our modern heroes),” he said.

The event coincides with the first anniversary of Republic Act No. 11641, which mandates the creation of DMW.

“Ngayon, higit kailanman ay napakahalaga ng papel na ginagampanan ninyo na maiahon ang ating ekonomiya at maiangat ang antas ng pamumuhay ng inyong pamilya at kapwa Pilipino (The work that you do, now more than ever, is significant in lifting our economy and raising the living standard of your family, including your fellow Filipinos),” he added.

Marcos made an assurance that through the DMW, government assistance and services would no longer be limited to the workers but also to their families.

Relevant offices, he said, are working on projects, including providing more scholarships, shelter, and other services and benefits to OFWs.

In the same event, he expressed gratitude to the millions of overseas workers for giving the country a good image that Filipinos are hardworking and have excellent work ethics.

“Dahil sa inyo, nagkaroon ng magandang imahe ang ating bansa sa buong mundo. Tinitingala ang mga manggagawang Pilipino bilang isa sa mga pinakamagagaling. Hindi na isa sa pinakamagagaling, ‘yung pinakamagaling at pinakamasipag at pinakamaalagain sa buong mundo (Because of you, we have a good image abroad. We are seen as one of the best, hard working and caring workers in the world) ,” he said.

The DMW has so far served 766,290 OFWs and facilitated the repatriation of at least 6,341 distressed Filipinos.

As of November 2022, the agency has provided 16,000 scholarships through the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

Migrant Workers Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople, for her part, said the department would be in full hiring mode next year to fill up around 1,000 positions.

DMW would also be opening 16 regional officers and four overseas labor posts to better serve all migrant workers and their families

“Pangako po, Mr. President, gagawin namin sa DMW at ng OWWA ang lahat para alagaan at ipaglaban ang ating mga OFWs at ang kanilang mga pamilya. Dahil iyan po ang inyong mahigpit na tagubilin sa amin. At dahil tunay po namin silang minamahal at ginagalang (I promise that we will do everything to advance the rights and interests of OFWs and their families because we care and truly respect them), ” she said.

Ople also reported that the first OFW Hospital in Mabalacat, Pampanga, is now fully operational and now serving OFWs and their families. (PNA)