DMW launches One Repat Command Center

The Department of Migrant Workers has launched the One Repatriation Command Center (One-Repat DMW) for distressed overseas Filipino workers and their families wishing to be “rescued” from abusive employers and repatriated back home.

All the families of distressed OFWs need to do is to call the One-Repat DMW hotline 1348, or OFWs can email to repat@dmw.gov.ph. A team of case officers, welfare officers and medical professionals will assist them with their concerns.

The Command Center, located at the Blas F. Ople Building (formerly POEA building) along Edsa corner Ortigas Ave. in Pasig City, also allows walk-in requests for assistance.

DMW Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople said the One-Repat DMW will integrate the assistance already being offered by various agencies such as the Overseas Welfare Administration (OWWA), Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs in one single hub.

“In the past, OFWs and their loved ones had to knock on the doors of several government agencies to ask for help. It’s heartbreaking to see families from the provinces traveling all the way to Manila, incurring needless debts and expenses, and dealing with long periods of anxiety while waiting for the response from government agencies,” Ople said during the press conference.

In 2021, there were 11,813 OFWs who were repatriated by the POEA and OWWA. Since the start of this year, there were already 7,077 OFWs repatriated by both agencies. 

Toby Nebrida, DMW spokesman, said the most common complaints of OFWs in 2021 up to present are still related to pandemic. “Many were locked up by their employers, contract violation, finished contract, medical condition, contract were cut short due to pandemic,” Nebrida said.

Since the administrative control of POEA, OWWA and other DOLE agencies catering to OFWs was already turned over by DOLE Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma to Ople, it is expected that there will be more coordination now. 

“Ang importante ngayon, may magfa-follow up sa pamilya ano nangyari sa kaso nila,” she stressed.

POEA administrator Bernard Olalia said the responsibility of repatriation lies first and foremost with the foreign employer of the OFW. In case the OFWs’ employers fail to shoulder the repatriation cost, the POEA will require the local agencies or the manning agencies of the OFWs. 

In the event that even the local agency of the OFWs cannot afford the workers’ repatriation, then OWWA will shoulder the repatriation. The repatriation costs should be reimbursed, otherwise, the recruitment licenses of the OFWs will be suspended or revoked.

Hans Cacdac, OWWA chief, said Congress has appropriated P8 billion for them as emergency repatriation fund to repatriate OFWs.

The Department of Foreign Affairs Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs also has an appropriated budget for repatriation of Filipinos. DFA Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega said they will come in when overseas Filipinos in distress are non-OFWs like tourists or have been married and become permanent residents of other countries. 

“Basta problema ng OFW, sa DMW pupunta. Dahil wala pa kaming 100 percent na kakayahan, pero may existing government agencies with existing budgets. Also the DFA is here. It is the solidarity bloc to assist the OFWs while we are in the stage of transition,” Ople explained. 

Ople said they are expecting that the Command Center will also be deluged with calls not related to repatriation such as OFWs asking about passport renewals or labor disputes. She said, the case officers will still entertain the calls, process their concerns and refer them to appropriate agencies concerned. 

“There will be a triage. We will prioritize repatriation cases especially acts of sexual violence, physical abuse, faced labor and human trafficking abroad,” Ople said.

Ople and De Vega clarified though that OFWs should not expect that the DMW or DFA officers would do the “actual rescue” of the distressed OFWs. They said the government will still follow international law and respect the sovereignty of the host countries including enforcing their domestic laws. 

De Vega said the Philippine embassy or consulate will coordinate with the police or other law enforcement agencies of the host country to deal with the requests to be rescued by OFWs.