By Marita Moaje

Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople noted the importance of pre-departure orientation and empowerment of migrant workers during the 5th Meeting of the Colombo Process on Tuesday (March 14, 2023). Ople said preparing the overseas Filipino workers before they leave and making them aware of their rights will arm them as they embark on foreign land to work. (Photo grabbed from DMW Facebook page) 

MANILA – Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople on Tuesday cited the importance of the predeparture orientation as well as the empowerment of migrant workers before they actually leave their country of origin to work in a foreign land.

“Our work at the DMW is never-ending, and at the heart of it all is the importance of pre-departure orientation and the empowerment of our migrant workers,” Ople said during her speech at the opening of the 5th Meeting of the Colombo Process Thematic Area Working Group (TAWG) on Pre-Departure Orientation and Empowerment.

Having been an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) advocate even before she was appointed secretary, Ople said that she has met people from all walks of life who have a relative and close family members working abroad.

Every day, over a hundred people hoping to be able to work abroad flock to the DMW office in Mandaluyong to process their papers.

“If they leave unprepared, unaware of their rights, and not even realizing how life-changing a decision it is to work abroad, then the probability of landing in unsafe, least protected environments becomes sky-high,” Ople said.

Meanwhile, to be empowered, she said that sometimes, people have to fall and get up, to truly understand its meaning.

Sadly, she said some foreign employers of domestic workers have low awareness of their moral and even financial obligations.

With this fact, Ople expresses admiration and gratitude to the member countries of the Colombo Process, “for not giving up on your belief that migrant workers’ rights are human rights, and that compromising these rights diminishes all of us.”

Ople also shared the concerns raised by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. during the first Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking meeting held in Malacañang Palace on Monday over the crypto-currency cases of human trafficking in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

She said that the President had directed the DMW to intensify its awareness campaign against illegal recruitment and human trafficking particularly those undertaken through social media.

Moreover, she said that DMW is pushing for reforms to include incentives for fair and ethical recruitment, country-specific standard employment contracts, more bilateral labor agreements against the trafficking of migrant workers, and zero tolerance for graft and corruption.

As various governments around the world realize that migration issues and challenges cannot be addressed by one state alone, the Colombo Process, which is a regional consultative process of 12 Asian countries that focuses on the protection and provision of services to migrant workers and optimizing benefits of organized labor migration for both sending and receiving countries along with the migrants and their family was established in 2003.

Its member states includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam, while the eight observer states include Bahrain, Italy, Kuwait, Malaysia, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. (PNA)