Last September 14-15, 2017, I was invited to be part of the meeting of the Inter-Agency Committee for the Celebration of the Month of Overseas Filipinos and International Migrants’ Day (IAC-MOF) held at Subic Bay Travelers Hotel. Representatives from thirteen (13) member-agencies participated at this meeting hosted by the Department of Health (DOH).
The IAC-MOF, created in 2007 through Administrative Order No. 202, is tasked to come up with activities for the month-long Month of Overseas Filipinos (MOF) celebration held in December. The MOF started in 1998 by President Corazon Aquino in recognition to the significant contributions of overseas Filipinos to Philippine development and restoration of its democracy. The IAC-MOF is chaired by the Philippine Migrants Rights Watch (PMRW) and co-chaired by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO).
On the first day, September 14, IAC-MOF Chairperson and PMRW President Carmelita G. Nuqui welcomed the participants of the meeting, followed by presentations of member-agencies on programs and services for overseas Filipinos.
Mr. Ivan Valcos of the National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO) presented their reintegration programs and services such as livelihood development assistance, small business management, financial awareness seminar, Assist WELL reintegration assistance package, agricultural enterprise program, and database of successful OFW returnees among others. He also shared the Reintegration Summit Declaration which was presented during the National Reintegration Summit last August 30, 2017.
Mr. Jomari Rifareal of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) presented updates on the iDOLE OFW Card System. He said that the iDOLE will serve not only as an OFW ID, but also provide online one-stop-shop services, debit card and even a Beep card for selected modes of public transportation.
Mr. Elfred del Rosario of the CFO presented the BalinkBayan, CFO’s online initiative providing a one-stop portal for information and opportunities for retuning migrants. Such services includes information on how to start a business as well as access to networks of various agencies involved in reintegration.
Ms. Ma. Victoria Magkalas of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) presented on their programs and services for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). Such services includes the one-stop Negosyo Centers for potential entrepreneurs, SME Information support materials, product development and design services, support for trade fairs and exhibitions, loan packages and others. She also encouraged the establishment of Barangay Micro Business Enterprises due to their incentives such as exemption from income tax and coverage of minimum wage law, and priority to special credit windows in Government Financial Institutions such as Landbank, DBP, SSS and the like.
Dr. Joel Buenaventura of the Department of Health (DOH) presented their Medical Repatriation Assistance Program (MRAP) for Overseas Filipinos. Under the MRAP, repatriated overseas Filipinos can avail of the following services free-of-charge, such as airport assistance and initial medical assessment/evaluation, ambulance, referral to and/or confinement in a DOH hospital, endorsement to non-DOH health facilities, financial assistance, Philhealth membership coverage, medical escort services and psychosocial counselling.
Finally, PMRW President Mel Nuqui shared DAWN’s holistic approach to reintegration which is through psychosocial and economic interventions. She said that they provide such services, especially for distressed migrant women returnees and their children, to empower them and be able to recover from their situation. Psychosocial interventions include counselling, medical, education and legal/paralegal assistance; group work activities; seminars and workshops; and therapeutic workshops. Once the women are ready, DAWN provides economic interventions such as skills training in sewing and weaving, livelihood support, entrepreneurial trainings and home-based projects
On the second day of the meeting, September 15, the IAC-MOF members discussed the activities for this year’s MOF celebration. This year’s theme is “Enhancing Reintegration, Leaving No Migrants and their Families Behind,” focusing on reintegration strategies and policies for migrants and support programs for their families.
This year, MOF will have 5 major activities: 2 Regional Forums on Migration and Migrants’ Health Fair, 2 International Forum on Migration and the National Forum on Migration.
The first regional forum on migration will be held on November 6, 2017 at Naga, Camarines Sur, while the second forum will on November 9, 2017 at Balanga, Bataan. The forum will showcase the different reintegration programs and services provided by the government, CSO’s and other stakeholders and also share the success reintegration stories of migrant returnees. There will be also be booths provided where participants may avail of several services of IAC member-agencies. The regional forum is made possible in partnership with the local governments of Camarines Sur and Bataan and assistance from the League of Provinces of the Philippines.
The Migrants’ Health Forum, organized by the DOH, will also be held during the conduct of the regional forums in Camarines Sur and Bataan. The forum will start with an energetic group exercise. Booths shall be provided where several health services may be availed such as nutrition counselling, wellness programs, dental care services, Philhealth membership and the like.
There will also be two international forums on migration for this year. The first will be on November 19, 2017 in Hong Kong, while the second will be on December 1, 2017 in Doha, Qatar. Similar to the regional forum, this will discuss the reintegration services available for migrants. At the same time, participants may also avail of services provided by IAC-MOF agencies at booths in the venue.
The culminating event shall be the National Forum on Migration to be held on December 18, 2017 (International Migrants’ Day) in Manila. Aside from showcase of programs and services, there will be a cultural presentation courtesy of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the awarding of the Migration Advocacy and Media Awards.
The Film Development Council of the Philippines shall also be providing film screenings at all five (5) forums in migration.