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Thursday, April 18, 2024

DOJ clarifies LGUs’ role in sending OFWs to other countries under sisterhood agreements

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued a legal opinion allowing local government units (LGUs) to send workers abroad under sisterhood agreements with foreign counterparts. However, the deployment remains under the jurisdiction of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW).

The DOJ clarified that while LGUs can enter into these agreements, the DMW, as mandated by law, is responsible for protecting the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). This includes ensuring they receive proper wages, work in good conditions, and are not subjected to abuse.

“The DMW is the primary agency of the government mandated by law to protect and promote the welfare of overseas Filipino workers after it absorbed all the functions and powers of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA),” the DOJ said.

The legal opinion was prompted by concerns raised by the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) regarding sisterhood agreements with South Korean cities, which involved deploying seasonal workers in agriculture and fisheries.

The DOJ acknowledged reports of problems faced by some deployed workers, including wage theft, poor working conditions, and even abuse. They also highlighted the issue of illegal recruitment and demands for collateral from workers.

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Despite these concerns, the DOJ cited Section 35 of the Local Government Code, which allows LGUs to enter into joint ventures for livelihood projects, including those with foreign organizations. Additionally, Section 23 grants LGUs the authority to negotiate with foreign entities for financial aid without needing national government approval.

The DOJ concluded that LGUs have the legal authority to enter into sisterhood agreements for worker deployment, but emphasized the importance of collaboration with the DMW to ensure the safety and well-being of Filipino workers abroad.

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