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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

POEA lifts free rides for OFWs

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The return to normalcy has its own setbacks, one of which is the removal of free rides in mass transport being offered by the government.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), for instance, has announced that it will stop its transportation and accommodation assistance program for returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in all areas under Alert Level 1 beginning next month.

Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III reiterated that Department of Migrant Workers Secretary Abdullah Mama-o cannot reassign any officials and employees of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) pending the constitution of the new department.

“In light of the IATF pronouncement placing the National Capital Region and other areas in the country on Alert Level 1 status, services and industries including public transportation are in full operating capacity,” OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said in an advisory on Tuesday.

“Hence, transportation assistance for returning OFWs shall be suspended effective June 1, 2022,” he said.

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However, distressed OFWs certified by the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO) or as evaluated by authorized OWWA airport officers would still enjoy free rides. The exemption also covered Filipinos returning to the country through government-initiated mass repatriation flights, specifically OFWs provided airfare by the POLOs through commercial flights.

Following the directive, the OWWA-chartered buses at the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange and OWWA-sweeper flights at the NAIA Terminal II will cease operations on June 1.

Meanwhile, the OWWA clarified it will still assist partially vaccinated or unvaccinated OFWs who are required to undergo mandatory facility-based quarantine. Their transportation fares for going back to their home provinces, however, will not be shouldered by the OWWA.

Returning Filipino workers who will be needing assistance were advised to contact OWWA through their hotline or their Repatriation Assistance Division at (02) 88917601 local 5213 or through their email address: rad@owwa.gov.ph.

Bello directed POEA chief Bernard Olalia to maintain the status quo in the performance of the duties and responsibilities of POEA personnel.

Bello also said any official or employee of the POEA who violates his directive faces administrative sanctions in accordance with Civil Service rules and regulations.

In a statement, Bello ordered the POEA to strictly observe the status quo in the performance of their duties and responsibilities following a recent reshuffle order of Mama-o involving 16 officials of the agency, mostly division chiefs and directors.

The affected POEA personnel were further ordered by Mama-o to “clear themselves from all reportorial, property, and monetary accountabilities and ensure proper turnover of all their pending projects and programs, and submit their respective certificates of assumption to duty.”

“The POEA officials enumerated under DMW Administrative Order No. 56, Series of 2022 dated May 20, 2022, shall remain under the direct supervision and control of the DOLE Secretary and shall maintain a status quo in their daily operations,” Bello said.

The labor chief said the issuance of the DMW order contradicts of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and the Department of Justice Opinion issued by Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

“It also unduly hampers the discharge and administration of functions, duties, and responsibilities of the POEA Administrator,” Bello said.

Under Section 23 of Republic Act No. 11641, the DMW shall not be constituted without an appropriation in the 2023 General Appropriations Act, an effective implementing rules and regulations, and a staffing pattern.

Bello clarified that the DMW has not been fully constituted, hence, the government agencies enumerated in Section 19 of the said law shall continue to exist separately and shall perform their respective mandates.

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