The provincial government of Palawan and the Department of Migrant Workers signed on Tuesday an agreement aimed at protecting Filipinos from the threats of illegal recruitment and human trafficking, particularly those aspiring to become overseas workers to support their families.

Its goal is to strengthen the promotion of the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to combat illegal recruitment and trafficking in persons in provinces like Palawan.

This will be accomplished by educating employees of relevant agencies about employment and migration, providing assistance to victims of human trafficking, and disseminating information to citizens about important aspects of overseas employment.

The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) said it is part of the Philippine Development Plan 2023 to 2028 Strategy Framework to Strengthen Social Protection.

The memorandum of agreement, which is particularly related to the Anti-illegal Recruitment and Trafficking In Persons (AIRTIP) campaign, was formally signed on November 28 in Puerto Princesa City.

Signatories were Palawan Governor Dennis Socrates, 16 local government units (LGUs) led by their mayors, Mayor Lucilo Bayron of Puerto Princesa City, DMW Undersecretary for Licensing and Adjudication Services Bernard Olalia and Assistant Secretary Francis Ron De Guzman, and City Public Employment Services Office head Demetrio Lopez Jr.

DMW OIC Regional Director Jonathan Gerodias, Welfare Officer Adignita Elijan representing Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Regional Director Gerald Tan, TESDA-PPSAT Vocational School Administrator Sianita Tadlasa, and a representative from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), also signed the memorandum of agreement.

At the event Olalia said that the DMW is the newest agency established by the current administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and a legacy of the late DMW Secretary Maria Susana ”Toots” Ople.

The legislation that established it as a full department was enacted in December 2021, and it took until January 2023 for it to become fully operational. Known as the “Home of OFWs,” the organization operates 16 regional offices across the nation, one of which is located in Palawan and is designated as Region IV-B.

“We need to protect our main clients who are the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) o ang mga minamahal na mga bagong bayani nating itinuturing. Our national policy is to provide the framework for our OFWs. Overseas employment is a matter of choice rather than a matter of necessity,” he said.

He expressed his hope that the departure of Filipinos, especially those with families leaving behind their dear children and spouses, would not be out of compulsion.

“Sana isa itong choice na alam at buong puso na tinanggap ng ating kababayan bago siya umalis,” added Olalia.

Socrates thanked the DMW for raising awareness about their efforts to protect migrant workers from provinces like Palawan in the Mimaropa region.

He acknowledged this development as a consequence of the increasing globalization of economies, highlighting that this awareness extends beyond governmental and secular institutions to religious ones, particularly the Catholic Church.

“This event is important as it follows the establishment of our Department of Migrant Workers and proves that our consciousness in providing protection to our migrant workers has increased. This phenomenon is an offshoot of the continuing, increasing globalization of economies and I am happy to know that even the Catholic Church has such awareness,” he said.

“For Catholics, familiar with the litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Rosary, Pope Francis added three new titles to the holy Virgin Mary, one being ‘The Solace of Migrants’ because we see this new phenomenon of the increasing number of migrant workers. Not only from the Philippines but from other countries as well, there is a strong movement of workers seeking the betterment of their families,” the provincial governor added.

OFW Partylist Congresswoman Marissa “Del Mar” Magsino also delivered a message via video, praising the collaborative efforts of DMW Palawan and its LGUs through the MOA to combat illegal recruitment and human trafficking to protect the citizens in the province.

Also showing support at the event were Board Member Ryan D. Maminta, Provincial Legal Officer Atty. Joshua Bolusa, PESO OIC Orphy Ordinario, and Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer Abigail Ablaña.

Following the agreement signing, an AIRTIP Campaign Seminar was conducted, attended by PESO managers and representatives, social workers, and law enforcers in the province.

The resource speakers discussed to them the programs under TESDA and OWWA; the mandate of DMW and an overview of the ongoing campaign; Law on Illegal Recruitment; Modus Operandi of Illegal Recruitment; 10 Reminders to Avoid Illegal Recruitment, Trafficking In Persons, Online Scams, and Apat Dapat, and Law on Trafficking in Persons Forced Labor.

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