By Marita Moaje

(File photo)

MANILA – Government agencies will sit down this week to tackle transnational matters, including overseas Filipinos on death row.

During a press briefing in Malacañang on Tuesday, Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Secretary Susan Ople said she will meet with Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma and Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo on Friday.

Sixty-five overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are on death rows, according to data shared during budget hearings last year.

“For example, iyon nga mga death row cases, iyong pag-transfer ng (those in the death row cases, the transfer of the) ATN (Assistance to Nationals) work from the ATN officers of our embassies to our migrant workers attachés, the kind of training that’s needed to capacitate them in preparation for that very delicate job,” Ople said of the topics to be discussed.

Ople deferred the issue of the executive clemency for OFW Mary Jane Veloso to the DFA as it was raised by Manalo during President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s state visit to Indonesia in September last year.

Veloso has been jailed in Indonesia since 2010 when about 2.6 kilograms of heroin were found in her suitcase. 

Six months after her arrest, Veloso was meted out the death penalty.

Manalo has appealed to his Indonesian counterpart, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, for executive clemency for Veloso.

The sealing of labor deals and ongoing negotiations abroad can be attributed to Marcos’ recent international visits to different countries, Ople said.

She said there are ongoing bilateral labor talks with Romania, Hungary, Portugal and Hong Kong.

“A lot of it really can be attributed to the President’s popularity. But we also have to shout out as well doon sa (about the) reputation, excellent reputation ng (of) Filipino workers,” Ople said.

The Philippine side will go to Singapore in March to finalize the implementation of protocols in preparation for the hiring of more Filipino health workers while Portugal plans to employ Filipinos for its tourism sector.

Hong Kong’s Minister of Labor and Welfare also broached the possibility of holding exploratory talks on the deployment of Filipino caregivers, Ople said.

When the President goes to Japan in February, the DMW will be renewing a bilateral agreement forged under the Labor department, Ople said.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia may hire about 6,000 Filipinos this month.

Among the DMW’s 2023 plans are more scholarship programs for children of OFWs and opening about 1,000 positions to address better the needs of migrant workers. (PNA)