Manny Pacquiao is the principal author of this bill. Image Credit: AFP

Manila: A new law signed recently by President Rodrigo Duterte mandates the Philippine government to distribute free handbooks containing information about the rights and responsibilities of Filipino migrant workers.

The Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) Handbook Law, also known as Republic Act No. 11227, directs the government, in particular the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to provide each and every Philippine national working abroad with the handy resource, which also includes basic information about living conditions in various countries where workers may be planning to go.

The new law was signed by Duterte on February 22.

However, news of its becoming law was published by the government only on Saturday, March 2.

Under the legislation, the POEA is mandated to develop, publish, disseminate and update a handbook.

Senator Manny Pacquiao, principal author of the bill, said it was the government’s obligation to ensure the safety and welfare of the millions of OFWs all over the world, “By providing them with standard printed information.”

“We want to equip our OFWs with the necessary information they can access once they are out there in the global marketplace,” Pacquiao said.

The handbook will be written in various languages, as well as dialects, that would be easily understood by OFWs.

Pacquiao said, while the 23-year old Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 authorised the POEA to “undertake other programmes or resort to other modes of information and dissemination campaign”, past efforts by government agencies to provide OFWs with such handbooks had been limited — and the information contained therein was “inconsistent.”

Senator Joel Villanueva, sponsor of the bill as chairman of the Senate Committee on Labour, Employment and Human Resources Development, said the distribution of such handbooks would help in preventing abuses against Filipino workers abroad.

“In the face of increasing number of abuses against OFWs, perhaps, we can go back to the basics by equipping our workers abroad with the right information at the right time and in the right way,” Villanueva said.

According to Villanueva, the guidebook would also empower migrant workers by making them aware of the benefits and drawbacks of working overseas.

Also contained in the handbook is the necessary information needed by OFWs for their reintegration once they return to the Philippines.

The Philippines’ legions of OFWs based around the world have been instrumental in keeping the country’s economy afloat during times of crisis.

Every month, hundreds of millions of dollars are funnelled into the country’s economy through the remittances of OFWs to their families.