DOLE to send teams to check on workers displaced by Mindanao quake

Robie de Guzman   •   October 31, 2019   •   468

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III
(ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO)

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is set to deploy teams to Mindanao areas that were heavily hit by the magnitude 6.5 earthquake on Thursday morning.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the quick response teams will assess the extent of destruction in workplaces and possible displacement of workers in quake-hit areas.

“I have sent Undersecretary Ana Dione and Assistant Secretary Benjo Santos Benavidez to proceed to General Santos City, and Davao City to lead our regional DOLE officials in the assessment of the situation,” he said in a statement.

He said checking on job displacements of workers in affected areas will be the priority task of the response team followed by the profiling of workers.

The labor chief added that he himself will fly to Davao City on Sunday, Nov. 3 to check on the situation of employees, along with Occupational Safety and Health Center executive director Noel Binag.

The magnitude 6.5 quake that occurred around 9:11 a.m. Thursday struck east of Tulunan town in Cotabato, the same general area which was hit by two power temblors last Oct. 16 and Oct. 29. The tremor was also felt in nearby areas in Mindanao, including Kidapawan and Davao City.

Bello said labor inspectors were already deployed to check the compliance of establishments on occupational safety and health standards and ensure the safety of the workers.

After the assessment of damages, he said the department will allocate funds to provide emergency employment assistance to affected workers and livelihood assistance to informal sector workers.

“We received a directive from the President to monitor and provide appropriate assistance to the earthquake-affected cities. Even when the first earthquake jolted Mindanao early this month, we have already deployed our team to provide assistance for the affected workers,” Bello said.

Malacañang earlier assured that the government is on top of the situation in Mindanao following the quake.

All agencies and responsible local government units have also been directed to provide the necessary assistance and immediate relief to affected communities.

Bodies of dead OFWs from Saudi Arabia to be flown home starting Friday – DOLE

Robie de Guzman   •   July 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvester Bello III on Wednesday said that the remains of overseas Filipino workers who died in Saudi Arabia will be brought home in batches starting Friday.

Bello said the first batch will be comprised of 44 bodies of deceased OFWs – 19 of whom succumbed to novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while the others died of various causes.

The remains will arrive at the Villamor Airbase via a chartered flight on July 10.

Bello said those who died from COVID-19 will be immediately brought to a crematorium for cremation. Their ashes will then be turned over to their families.

For OFWs who died of natural causes, the labor chief said that their remains may be claimed by their relatives or sent to their respective provinces.

The second batch of OFW remains will arrive on Sunday. A total of 274 remains of OFWs will be flown home from Saudi Arabia.

Bello said the bodies will be repatriated in batches because they cannot bring them home all at once due to stringent protocols and requirements.

“Unahin muna natin yung nakumpleto ang papeles kasi ang hirap ng mga papeles dito. Meron from the Ministry of Labor, meron Ministry of Foreign Affairs nila, ospital kung saan galing yung labi. Ang pinakamahirap yung consent ng employer ang ating mga kababayan,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) assured it will extend aid to the families of deceased workers.

OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said the families of both active and inactive members of the agency will receive financial assistance.

“Bereavement financial assistance at a minimum for inactive OWWA members and then there is an additional death and burial benefit for the active OWWA member in addition to other related benefits like livelihood. But there will be a minimun financial basic assistance for all,” Cacdac said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Mon Jocson/Jaycel Valera)

DOLE denounces ABS-CBN’s claim of compliance with labor practices

Marje Pelayo   •   July 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Wednesday (July 1) denounced the claims made by lawyers and officials of ABS-CBN Corporation that it found the network compliant with labor laws and standards.

In a statement, the labor department said it “denounces attempts by lawyers and officials of ABS-CBN to misrepresent its position to deceive members of the House of Representatives in its bid to gain congressional approval for a new franchise.”

Additionally, DOLE denied ABS-CBN’s claim that the department approves of the firm’s seasonal work status for its program employees.

DOLE said its inspectors found violations of labor practices on the part of ABS-CBN but added that “the company took steps to correct those infractions.”

“It is therefore patently misleading to attribute to us the claim that ABS-CBN is a compliant company,” the agency said adding that there are actually 67 pending cases against ABS-CBN in the National Labor Relation Commission (NLRC) and in various courts.

“We also warn the broadcast firm’s counsels against wrongfully presenting policy issuances of the department to the advantage of their client,” DOLE said.

“The cited rule governing the employee-employer relationship in the broadcast industry 40 years ago, which is not aligned with the provisions of the Labor Code, does not anymore apply to date,” it added.

The labor department said it will not let the matter pass.

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Bello says no to use of OFW funds to aid displaced migrant workers

Robie de Guzman   •   July 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III has rejected calls to use the trust fund being managed by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to provide for the emergency needs of Filipino migrant workers displaced by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“They are sending us more than $30 billion a year. Nakakatulong sa ekonomiya natin. Kaya naman, for once, pay back naman tayo. ‘Wag nating galawin yung pera nila,” Bello said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

The OWWA earlier asked for a P5 billion supplemental budget from Congress to prolong its fund’s sustainability as it warned of a “largely looming” bankruptcy should it continue to spend for the food, accommodation, and transportation of repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFW) beyond 2021.

At a Senate hearing last week, OWWA chief Hans Leo Cacdac said the agency’s P18.79-billion fund is expected to be reduced to P10 billion by the end of this year, and plunge below P1 billion by the end of 2021 should OFWs continue to be displaced and repatriated.

Cacdac said OWWA has so far spent more than P800 million for the repatriation, accommodation and cash assistance for returning OFWs.

Bello said OWWA funds should be spent more on its members’ needs, such as for livelihood or their children’s education.

“Dapat gobyerno ang magbigay ng pera para matiyak natin na lahat ng kailangan ng ating mga OFW ay matugunan natin… Bakit naman, for the first time na hihingi naman sila ng tulong, nangangailangan sila ng tulong, bakit naman kailangan nating galawin yung pondo nila?… ‘Wag natin gamitin ang pera na ‘yan sa panahong ito,” the labor chief said.

“Government has to take extra steps in order to assure additional budget to help our OFWs,” he added.

“Huwag nating hayaan na maramdaman ng OFW na tinitipid sila sa kabila ng napakalaki nilang naitulong sa ekonomiya natin in the good and in the best of times,” he further stated.

Bello said around 63,000 Filipino workers have already been brought home while about 90,000 others remain stranded in other countries and are awaiting repatriation.

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