DOLE to finalize OFW ID guidelines this week

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Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 3) — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is set to release the implementing guidelines for overseas Filipino worker (OFW) identification cards soon, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Thursday.

"[We are] now in the process of finalizing the implementing guidelines. Hopefully it will be completed this week," Bello told CNN Philippines.

Bello added that the Labor Department would then call other stakeholders to provide more input, after which the IDs will be produced.

Last July 12, the DOLE launched the OFW IDs dubbed iDOLE, which is set to replace the overseas employment certificate (OEC). However, the project was also criticized for the lack of guidelines.

The guidelines are expected to detail FAQs and other pertinent information about the IDs, such as where to claim them and who will shoulder the expenses for them.

READ: Labor department to launch new OFW ID to replace OECs

However, Bello assured that either the agencies or employees – not workers – will take care of this expense.

"I'll take this occasion to state categorically that the OFWs will not pay a single centavo for this ID. This is for free," Bello clarified.

According to Bello, the ID will also be valid for a lifetime, even if its holders have already retired from the OFW life.

OFWs should be able to register for an ID at the official iDOLE website, but the site is still in its testing phase.

Bello is also eyeing the utilization of the ID as an emergency passport, particularly for OFWs whose owners confiscate their passports. However, this arrangement has yet to be negotiated with the Department on Foreign Affairs.

Pre-Departure Orientation Seminars to be cancelled

Bello is also eyeing the cancellation of the mandatory Pre-Departure Orientation Seminars (PDOS) for first-time OFWs.

Instead, he is looking at making the seminar a requirement at the level of recruitment agencies.

"What can you teach them in six hours? These OFWs are just too excited to leave, wala sa focus nila yung tinuturo niyo diyan [they won't focus on what you're teaching]," said Bello.

"So if you want to train them... do it before they are qualified to be deployed. Responsibility yan ng agency, bago mo ideploy yung OFW, dapat na-train na [It's the responsibility of the agency to train them before they are deployed]... So I will do away with that."

Bello added that recruiters are not allowed to charge OFW applicants even if recruiters would be the ones to conduct the PDOS.

The PDOS is conducted by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, although accredited industry associations, recruitment agencies, and non-government organizations can also provide the service.

Among the topics included in the PDOS are the cultural differences in other countries, do's and don'ts abroad, health and safety tips, government services, and the rights and responsibilities of an OFW.

Bello hopes the seminars can be called off by the end of the month.