Laguesma, Ople sign Joint Circular defining roles, responsibilities

All is set for the smooth turnover of various labor agencies from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to the newly created Department of Migrant Workers (DMW).

DOLE Secretary Benny Laguesma and DMW Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople signed a Joint Circular today to ensure the effective and efficient implementation of Republic Act (RA) No. 11641, or the law creating the new department dedicated to overseeing the welfare of millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), considered as the country’s modern-day heroes, spread all over the world.

The Joint Circular provides for the transition of at least six labor agencies from the DOLE to the DMW, effectively charting the path for the evolution of the DMW into a full-fledged department of government.

These agencies include:

  1. Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA)
  2. Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs)
  3. International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB)
  4. National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO)
  5. Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA, as an attached agency)
  6. National Maritime Polytechnic (NMP, as an attached agency)

Laguesma, who first served as DOLE secretary under the Estrada administration, said he was fully supportive of Ople, daughter of the longest-serving DOLE chief and former Sen. Blas Ople, and the new department.

All out support tayo kay Toots and the DMW from my end,” Laguesma said. “Toots and I have a long professional and personal relationship together, and she has my full support as she nurtures the development of the DMW as a department.”

Signed into law in December 2021, RA 11641 created the DMW gathering all government agencies dealing with OFWs under one department, for the government to be more responsive to their needs.

Ople expressed gratitude for Laguesma’s support. Until her DMW appointment, she was head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, a non-government agency looking after distressed Filipino workers abroad.

The DMW is the youngest child in the cabinet, we are very appreciative of all the help, guidance, and support Secretary Laguesma has been giving us. I am sure he will continue to help us, the DMW, until such time that we can stand on our own,” she said.

The Joint Circular also underscores the powers and role of the DMW Secretary as the President’s chief adviser and principal implementer of all his orders regarding overseas workers.

It provides that the DMW Secretary shall have the power to exercise primary administrative control and supervision over the POEA, POLO, ILAB, and NRCO as well as administrative control over the OWWA and NMP as attached agencies.

The DMW shall assume the functions of the ILAB with regards to overseas labor migration ensuring the Philippines complies with its obligations to migration related international organizations and agreements.

The DMW shall work with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in the negotiation of treaties and agreements related to overseas labor migration.

The DOLE and POEA shall temporarily retain authority over the following matters:

  1. Quasi-judicial functions; and
  2. Issuance of licenses to recruitment and staffing agencies.
  3. The DOLE Secretary remains the Chair of the POEAs Governing Board, and the Board of Trustees of the OWWA and NMP.

Funds for the operations of all six agencies shall be sourced from their respective budget allocations in the 2022 General Appropriations Act, or the national budget.

The Joint Circular mandates that all officials and employees of the affected agencies shall continue to perform their regular duties and functions on a holdover capacity.

The DOLE and DMW Secretaries, however, are empowered by the Joint Circular to temporarily reassign personnel to ensure the continued delivery of services to the public.

A key implementing mechanism of the Joint Circular is the creation of a Joint Management Committee, or the JMC, which will address matters regarding the management and operations of the affected agencies. The JMC is also tasked with the financial management, governance, and compliance responsibilities in the disbursement of funds.

In all its actions, the JMCs goal is to ensure the successful creation of the DMW.

RA 11641 provides for a maximum two-year transition.

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