Ople bares plans for Dept of Migrant Workers, eyes Jan 2023 for full operations

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 26)— Incoming Migrant Workers Secretary Susan "Toots" Ople sees the newly-established government agency fully operational by January next year.

"In accordance with the law, when the budget is approved and you have full consolidation of all the agencies that should fall under the OFW (Overseas Filipino workers) department, we are looking at January of 2023," Ople told CNN Philippines' The Source on Thursday.

Ople recently accepted the offer of president-elect Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to head the department, having served as an OFW advocate and founder of the Blas Ople Policy Center, named after her father who served as labor secretary under former president Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

"I know the issues. I'm familiar with them," Ople said. "But it's also a heavy responsibility because first, we need to put up a structure to be able to address these issues and concerns, which will be my priority when the new administration comes in."

Ople said that among her priorities include establishing systems review that would protect OFWs from getting recruited by undesirable employers. She also wants to look into the implementation of the Ease of Doing Business Act, the hike in PhilHealth contributions, and the imposition of mandatory insurance which are all main concerns of the sector.

"In fact, dapat yung monitoring ng ating mga OFWs bago pa sila umalis, kung pwede matulungan na sila at makapag-apply sa tamang ahensya para maiwasan nila ang mga ahensyang never naging accountable for any gaps in services," she added.

[Translation: In fact, when monitoring our OFWs before they leave the country, they should be assisted so they can apply under the right agency and do not have to deal with agencies which were never held accountable for any gaps in services.]

Ople added it's about time for the government to implement a "dignified approach to migration governance" to make OFWs feel valued.

"What we want are informed, empowered workers, leaving by choice, and also knowing fully well where they are headed to, what kind of culture, what kind of work awaits them," she noted.

Ople was instructed to work alongside incoming labor secretary Bienvenido "Benny" Laguesma following their nomination.

Laguesma previously headed the Department of Labor and Employment under the Estrada administration, while Ople was labor undersecretary during the Arroyo administration.

Several names for other Cabinet positions have also been announced by his camp over the past days.

READ: LIST: Who will be part of Bongbong Marcos' Cabinet?