Philippine Filipino nurse IELTS
File photo shows Filipino workers, including nurses applying to work in United Kingdom, attend a lecture at a review centre for the International English Language Testing System or IELTS in Manila, Philippines, April 2, 2019. Image Credit: Reuters

Manila: Even before you leave, have an exit plan for when to go back home.

That’s the advice offered to more than 2 million for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) by the new head of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) as a fresh batch of department officials were named Thursday (August 10).

Susan "Toots" Ople, the new Secretary of DMW, said: "Bago pa umalis ang OFW, dapat may malinaw na exit strategy na sila bilang pamilya... Mahalaga yung reintegration kasi di naman puwedeng forever mag-OFW — lahat tayo tatanda at magre-retire. Gusto din namin sa DMW na hanggat maari ma-break ang inter-generational na cycle ng pagiging OFW.”

[Translation: Even before an OFW (overseas Filipino worker) leaves, there has to be a clear exit strategy as a family. Reintegration is important because they cannot live forever as an OFW. We will all grow old — and eventually would want to retire. In DMW, we want to break the inter-generational cycle of being an OFW].

What is OFW reintegration?

“Reintegration” of OFWs simply means allowing former expat Filipino workers to become productive and active contributors to the country when they stay “for good”. It is among the key priorities of the newly-formed Department of Migrant Workers (DMW).

As part of OWWA Reintegration Program, the National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO) assists repatriated OFWs.

In general, OWWA’s reintegration program has two aims:

> Short-term: The NRCO helps expat Filipino workers displaced from their jobs due to hostilities, conflicts, policy reform changes, or those who are victims of recruitment scams, human traffickers or other distressing situations (pandemic).

Example: When 245 Filipino deportees came home in a chartered flight on Tuesday (August 2), Secretary Ople instructed the NRCO to assess the repatriated workers’ needs and assist them to “begin a new and better chapter in life.”

> Medium- | long-term: The program includes scholarships and skills trainings offered to OFWs, ex-OFWs and their family members to empower them in their reintegration efforts. The idea: provide credit facility to allow ex-OFWs to put up and run their own business as an alternative to overseas employment.

Example: A business loan window has been opened through a tie-up between LANDBANK and OWWA, where an OFW can borrow up to Php5-million ($90,275 | Dh331,500) business loan.

On Thursday (August 10) Ople named her DMW deputies as she vowed to make the department a home for OFWs and their families.

Arnell Ignacio Toots Ople DMW
Susan "Toots" Ople (right) is the ad interim Secretary of the Department of Migrant Workers since June 30, 2022, while Arnell Ignacio was named as the new chief of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). Image Credit: Facebook

Arnell Ignacio: New OWWA chief

TV host Arnell Ignacio was named head of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), formerly under the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), which now falls under the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), the presidential palace said Thursday.

Ignacio previously served as OWWA deputy executive director and deputy administrator during the Duterte administration. He was appointed by President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to replace Hans Leo Cacdac as OWWA administrator, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles announced.

In a post, Ignacio thanked the president for trusting him to lead the agency, a membership institution which promotes the welfare of Filipino migrant workers and their dependents.

“Reading the news… Buffering ako, halos hindi ako makapaniwala (I’m buffering and I almost cannot believe it),” he said in a Facebook post.

Before being appointed OWWA deputy executive director under Duterte, Ignacio (full name Arnaldo Arevalo Ignacio) was well-known as a game show host, comedian, actor, news anchor, and singer-songwriter. Ignacio has hosted  shows such as Chibugan Na!, Kwarta o Kahon, GoBingo, Katok Mga Misis, and K!

OFWs in Moscow
Image Credit: Delmer Cruz | Facebook

Ople heads Department of Migrant Workers (DMW)

Susan "Toots" Ople, named Secretary of DMW, has administrative oversight on OWWA as well as Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

Hans Leo Cacdac and
Hans Leo Cacdac (left) was named DMW undersecretary in charge on welfare and employment of Filipino migrant workers, while POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia was designated as DMW's Undersecretary for Licensing and Adjudication. Image Credit: Facebook

Cacdac will be among the four new undersecretaries of the newly-created department and will be tasked to focus on the welfare and employment of Filipino migrant workers, said Angeles.

Licensing and Adjudication

POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia was also designated as DMW's Undersecretary for Licensing and Adjudication, and will concurrently serve as officer-in-charge of POEA until DMW is deemed fully constituted on the approval of the 2023 budget.

Finance and Internal Affairs

Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones, former DOLE Assistant Secretary and in government service for 31 years, will now serve as DMW Undersecretary for Finance and Internal Affairs, according to Ople announced.

Policy and International Cooperation

Atty. Patricia Yvonne Caunan, a government newbie who headed a law firm specialising in labor, civil, administrative, and criminal cases, will be the Undersecretary for Policy and International Cooperation.


A former overseas Filipino worker in Jeddah for nearly three decades was also appointed as one of the DMW assistant secretaries.

Venecio "Ka Vinnie" Legaspi rose from the ranks to become the vice president of a prominent bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia before retiring and joining the DMW as Assistant Secretary for Reintegration.

Ople said Legaspi's experiences can help him in his new role, saying she personally made the recommendation to appoint him so he can serve as an inspiration to other OFWs.

She said his success story can help OFWs see that they can retire after providing a stable life for their family.

Other appointments

DMW assistant secretaries:

  • Jerome Pampolina
  • Levinson Alcantara
  • Jerome Alcantara
  • Francis Ron De Guzman
  • Felicitas Bay
  • Violeta Illescas

Ople believes she now has the "dream team" to help her lead the department that is set to be fully operational in 2023.

“This team under my leadership will work hardest to create a DMW that will be the home and sanctuary of every OFW," she said.

The new appointees will start their working day on August 15.