Happy 24th Birthday, OWWA!

When I was with the labor department, one of the agencies that I worked closely with was the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administraton (OWWA). This agency has a roster of good people, many of who have been there since its creation.

The man at OWWA’s helm worked under my late father during his labor days. Ka Blas, then labor secretary, tapped Marianito Roque to develop a plan for a trust fund to help our OFWs (at that time less than a million) during times of distress. With my late father’s full support, Roque together with a small group of DOLE officials created the legal and social infrastructure to make that trust fund possible. Through the years, OWWA has become a bedrock of support for our OFWs.

Serendipity (and the President’s good judgment) has brought Nito Roque as senior career official to OWWA Administrator. For the first time in decades, because of honest and dynamic leadership and high morale of its staff, OWWA has announced a budget surplus. It also entered into partnerships with corporate giants such as Philam Life, Microsoft, Intel, PLDT, Smart and Globe Telecoms, SM Department Store, PNB, BPI, different franchise associations and so many others to help OFWs and their families make better use of their remittances. It is a source of personal joy for me to see Nito pour his heart and soul every single hour of the day to make OWWA more responsive to its clients.

How relevant is this agency? Before they leave, OFWs are mandated to go through pre-employment departure seminars conducted by NGOs and private institutions supervised by OWWA. When working abroad, our OFWs are able to seek shelter at the OWWA Welfare Centers and ask for guidance from the Welfare Officer and staff. In preparation for their return, OFWs and their families can enter the reintegration program of OWWA and link up with the private sector for small-scale businesses.

OWWA has truly become a reliable partner for OFWs. As it was envisioned then, so it is now. Congratulations, OWWA!

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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