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Focused and comprehensive reintegration services await repatriate OFWs under DOLE’s Assist WELL Program

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has set up a package of comprehensive reintegration assistance and services under its Assist WELL Program to ensure that returning overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who voluntarily sign up for repatriation, or those who are compelled to go home under mandatory repatriation due to crises or emergency situations, are successfully reintegrated in the mainstream of Philippine society.

Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz gave this assurance yesterday, saying agencies and offices of the DOLE concerned with local and overseas employment and provision of welfare services for OFWs have converged and now implement the Assist WELL Program that will best address the Welfare, Employment, Legal, and Livelihood needs of repatriated OFWs.

“It is true that many OFWs are hesitant to come home even if the country where they work are in the middle of crisis, or are experiencing political conflict because of their apprehension of being dislocated. The Assist WELL Program aims to address this concern,” Baldoz said.

"Thus, I assure our OFW repatriates from countries experiencing crisis situations or emergencies, such as Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, Kenya, of a safe and smooth return. The government, through the DOLE, is here to assist you," she added.

A component of the National Reintegration Program for OFWs, the DOLE adopted the Assist WELL Program to ensure the successful reintegration of OFWs repatriated from crisis or emergency situations, pursuant to relevant alert level systems of the national government.

Secretary Baldoz established the program under DOLE Department Order No. 139, Series of 2014.

Relative to Welfare Assistance, the OWWA, as head of Assist WELL Program’s welfare assistance committee, provides airport assistance; temporary shelter and accommodation; transport assistance to residence; emergency medical assistance; and stress debriefing.

On employment assistance, the employment assistance committee provides job placement/referral for local employment or overseas employment; and competency assessment and certification for repatriated workers who wish to confirm whether they possess the competencies required in a preferred workplace. This committee is headed by no less than DOLE Undersecretary Reydeluz Conferido.

Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad heads the livelihood assistance committee which provides entrepreneurial development training; livelihood skills training; hands-on business mentoring and support; and business loan assistance.

There are three programs that repatriated workers can avail under livelihood. These are the P2-B Reintegration Loan Fund for OWWA members; Balik-Pinay, Balik-Hanapbuhay for distressed OFWs; and the P10-K Livelihood Assistance for non-documented workers.

Lastly, the legal assistance committee, headed by POEA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac, provides legal advice; conciliation proceedings to afford repatriated workers and their recruitment agencies a venue to discuss the possibility of amicable settlement; assistance in the preparation and filing of complaints for illegal recruitment, recruitment violation, and disciplinary action cases; and counselling during preliminary investigation and hearings of criminal cases for illegal recruitment.

“All concerned DOLE implementing agencies have been directed to allocate and commit funds for the implementation of the Assist WELL Program,” Baldoz said.

A Steering Committee, which is chaired by Baldoz herself, oversees the implementation of the Assist WELL Program. It is composed of DOLE Undersecretary Reydeluz D. Conferido, Employment Assistance Committee; Undersecretary Ciriaco A. Lagunzad, Livelihood Assistance Committee; Undersecretary Rebecca C. Chato, Management Services Committee; Philippine Overseas Employment Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac, Legal Assistance Committee; and Overseas Workers Welfare Administrator Rebecca J. Calzado, Welfare Assistance Committee.

The members of the Steering Committee are Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Deputy Director General Irene M. Isaac; National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO) Director Violeta N. Muñoz; Bureau of Local Employment (BLE) Director Dominique Tutay; Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns (BWSC) Director Ahmma Charisma L. Satumba; International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB) Director Saul T. De Vries; and Labor Communications Office Director Nicon F. Fameronag.

The various committee chairmen have constituted their respective committees whose members come from the POEA, OWWA, TESDA, NRCO, BLE, BWSC, ILAB, and DOLE’s Financial Management Services (FMS).

A Program Secretariat is constituted by representatives from POEA, OWWA, TESDA, NRCO, BLE, BWSC, ILAB and LCO and is headed by the NRCO, who will also maintain the database for Assist WELL Program.

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