UAE’s Filipino expats welcome creation of department dedicated to overseas workers

Rodrigo Duterte pledged to create a separate department for overseas Filipino workers, or OFWs, and promised to crack down on illegal recruiters.

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ABU DHABI // Filipinos have welcomed plans to set up a separate department to cater to their needs, but hoped more consular staff would be sent to the UAE.

On Thursday, Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in as the 16th president of the Philippines. The former mayor of Davao City pledged to establish a separate department for overseas Filipino workers and promised to crack down on illegal recruiters.

Vilma Gabales, 52, a businesswoman who has lived in Abu Dhabi for 22 years, was confident the new president would deliver on his promises.

“His inauguration speech was full of substance and I’m sure he will stay true to his word that he will implement policy changes for the welfare of Filipino migrants and their families back home,” she said. “But I think the department of foreign affairs in Manila should augment the embassy and consulate staff to prevent long queues of people waiting to renew their passports and have their documents attested.”

Romeo Amadora, 42, an accounts assistant in Abu Dhabi, said something needed to be done about the long queue for passport services at the local embassy.

“Changes should be implemented to help speed up the process of all government services.”

Mr Amadora, a resident for the past 14 years, said a separate department for OFWs as a one-stop shop would be commendable.

“Let’s wait and see,” he said. “The new president has a strong personality and I think he’ll get things done.”

Jennifer Segador, 49, an office clerk in Abu Dhabi, said the proposed department should ensure that the rights and welfare of Filipinos overseas were protected, especially maids.

"Many of them run away due to long working hours, lack of sleep and unpaid salaries. We really hope that the Duterte administration improves the plight of our domestic workers."

A representative from migrant workers’ rights group Migrante said officials appointed to the department should have experience as expatriates, as they were more aware of the needs of overseas Filipinos.

“We welcome the idea of establishing a separate department to cater for overseas Filipino workers’ concerns as well as efforts to curb illegal recruitment,” said Nhel Morona, Migrante Middle East coordinator.

"We hope the new department would stop all state exactions. It should do away with the overseas employment certificate requirement, and allow us to have a lifetime membership with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, with health benefits."

Filipinos arriving in the UAE to work or returning from holiday must have a certificate before they leave the country to prove they have been legally hired.

The certificates are available at the Philippine overseas labour offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai for Dh10. Applicants must be members of the welfare administration at a cost of Dh92 for two years.