What is the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW)?

The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) is an executive agency of the Philippine government that is established to protect the rights and promote the welfare of Filipino migrant workers and their families. It serves on the frontlines in the administration, management, and evaluation of training and welfare services, benefits, projects, and other socio-civic programs that shall uphold its values as the national overseas labor and employment government agency.

Also Read: Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)

The DMW office is also responsible for coordinating with the Bangsamoro Ministry of Labor and Employment on the training, regulation, protection and deployment of overseas Bangsamoro workers.

department of migrant workers philippines

History of DMW

The department first came into existence through House Bill 5832 or the creation of the Department of Filipinos Overseas and Foreign Employment on March 11, 2020. Upon the urge of President Duterte to pass the bill, Senator Joel Villanueva then filed Senate Bill 1848 or the “Department of Overseas Filipinos Act” in 2021. Subsequent bills and institutional amendments were then made to consolidate the bill. On December 14, 2021, the bill was approved by the Senate.

Eventually, the department was established through Republic Act 11641 or the “Department of Migrant Workers Act” which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on December 30, 2021, during the commemoration of the 125th death anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal. Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Speaker of the House Lord Allan Velasco, and DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III served as witnesses to its enactment. 

As of April this year, the department is still under constitution and review as it awaits its appropriation as per the General Appropriations Act in order to have a budget on its first year, as well as an Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) that shall serve as the backbone for its programs and policies, and a staffing pattern for its employees. In the meantime, the POEA shall remain an overseeing agency for overseas labor and employment policies, concerns, and programs. 

An interagency transition committee of secretaries from the department’s proposed child agencies has also been formed to draft the  IRR of the agency for approval and publishing.

The transition shall take place 130 days after the enactment of the law. Once published, the constitution of the agency shall take effect. Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea reported that the department might be fully established by 2023. By then, the department shall have direct access and communication to the President to forward policies, resolutions, and other concerns affecting OFWs and their families in the country.

Functions of the DMW

Being the executive agency for overseas labor and employment, the department is in charge of administering, facilitating, managing and evaluating government and partnership projects on overseas recruitment, deployment, labor and repatriation through training, welfare, and benefit programs, and other socio-civic services for the benefit of overseas Filipino workers and their qualified dependents in the country. 

It shall consolidate and take on under one body the functions of nine government offices—the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), the DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs, the OWWA National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO), and the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Office of the Social Welfare Attaché (OSWA).

It shall also include the duties and responsibilities of the DOLE’s Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs), International Labor Affairs Bureau, and the National Maritime Polytechnic.


The department, once it has been formally established, will allow for a decentralized service system for all migrant workers’ matters. A decentralized system will allow for public and private offices to provide more accessible training, consultation and other welfare programs and projects for OFWs, whether first-time, returning, or repatriated.

Regional and provincial offices will be strengthened in order to cater to more Filipinos, and legal assistance will be offered in all of these offices. Moreover, with a decentralized system, staffing and human resources will be streamlined effectively, as each child agency will be able to work on more specialized concerns as necessary.

The department shall also be given sufficient annual appropriation in accordance with the General Appropriations Act, which will allow adequate allocation of funds to each child agency.

List of Philippine Agencies under the new Department of Migrant Workers

A number of OFW-centric Philippine agencies will be merged into this Department of Migrant Workers office, these PH agencies include:

1. Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA)

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) is the executive government agency that is responsible for the national overseas labor activity across all manning and recruitment agencies. It is mandated to create opportunities for Filipino migrant workers by formulating, managing, and evaluating programs and policies that aim to ease the recruitment of Filipinos for employment abroad. Furthermore, it also serves to ensure the protection and promotion of rights of Filipino migrant workers, and, in the event of any abuse or violation of such rights, forward their repatriation.

2. Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs of DFA

The Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs is a service arm of the Department of Foreign Affairs that is responsible for coordinating concerns from the overseas labor and employment industry and plays a key role in forwarding the protection and promotion of the welfare of migrant workers and their families by creating programs that will address their needs locally and abroad. Among their major programs include the repatriation and reintegration of OFWs, information campaigns on migrant workers’ rights and conditions, and employment assistance to former and returning OFWs.

The office works closely with the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), among others. 

3. National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO) of OWWA

The National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO) is an agency in coordination with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. It is established with the goal to assist in the reintegration of displaced or terminated Filipino migrant workers and their families by helping them achieve and maintain a steady and long-term livelihood upon their return to the country.

4. Office of the Social Welfare Attaché of DSWD

The Office of the Social Welfare Attache is an office established upon the enactment of Republic Act 1129 in February 2020. It serves as the arm of the Department of Social Work and Development, through its Home and Office Welfare Posts, in forwarding the promotion and protection of rights and welfare of Filipino migrant workers and their families. The office is managed by Social Welfare Attachés (SWAtts), who will be deployed in countries with a large concentration of Filipinos and coordinate with the overseeing departments on cases of irregular, distressed and vulnerable OFWs for assistance.

As of 2020, the office has seven SWAtts in the Philippine embassies and consulate offices in Riyadh, Jeddah, Kuwait, Malaysia, Dubai, Qatar, and Hongkong.

5. Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) of DOLE

The Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) are overseas offices of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, as spearheaded by the Department of Labor and Employment, that serve as the operating arm in the enactment and maintenance of Philippine labor policies and practices for the protection and promotion of the rights and welfare of OFWs.

The POLOs are also tasked to coordinate with regional and central offices of OWWA and DOLE in verifying employment-related documents, supervise and coordinate the implementation of Philippine labor policies and programs, carry out needs-based community programs, and engage in socio-cultural activities organized by the Philippine government, host countries, Filipino communities and other groups.

6. International Labor Affairs Bureau

The International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB), formerly the International Labor Affairs Service (ILAS), is an agency that was created through the DOLE Rationalization Plan, upon the approval by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in April 2009 pursuant to Executive Order 366 or the Government Rationalization Program.

ILAB is primarily in charge of developing recommendations for current labor policies, operating international labor and employment standards, and for monitoring the country’s observance and implementation of its obligations. courtesies and facilities required by international organizations. Also, it is tasked with providing advisory service to the Office of the Secretary in the supervision, monitoring and reporting of operations of the POLO offices and Filipino resource and assistance centers worldwide.

7. National Maritime Polytechnic

The National Maritime Polytechnic is the only government maritime training and research center in the Philippines. By virtue of Presidential Decree 1369, it was established on May 1, 1978 and became an attached agency to the Department of Labor and Employment in 1987 with the signing of Executive Order 126.

The institute is in charge of conducting specialization and upgrading courses, as well as competency assessment and ratings, for marine officers and trainees in accordance with national and international maritime education and training (MET) standards, and research and studies on maritime technologies, trends and other concerns.

List of Officers of Department of Migrant Workers

Here’s a list of appointed officials of the Department of Migrant Workers

  • Susan “Toots” V. Ople -DMW Secretary
  • Bernard P. Olalia – Undersecretary for Licensing and Adjudication Services
  • Hans Leo J. Cacdac – Undersecretary for Welfare and Foreign Employment
  • Patricia Yvonne M. Caunan – Undersecretary for Policy and International Cooperation
  • Maria Anthonette C. Velasco-Allones – Undersecretary for Finance and Internal Affairs
  • Arnell A. Ignacio – Administrator, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration
  • Jerome T. Pampolina – Assistant Secretary for Sea-based Services
  • Jerome A. Alcantara – Assistant Secretary for Land-based Services and concurrently Chief of Staff, Office of the Secretary
  • Levinson C. Alcantara – Assistant Secretary for Pre-Employment Services
  • Francs Ron. C. De Guzman – Assistant Secretary for Licensing and Adjudication Services
  • Felicitas Q. Bay – Assistant Secretary for Migrant Workers Welfare Services
  • Venecio V. Legaspi – Assistant Secretary for Reintegration
  • Violeta D. Illescas – Assistant Secretary for Internal Management and Administration
officers of the department of migrant workers
list of appointed officials of the DMW department

Video: Speedy Transactions for OFWs via DMW Office

Here’s a video uploaded online which features news about the DMW office vowing that they will provide faster transactions for OFWs:


The Department of Migrant Workers was proposed in hopes of speedy and accessible service for Filipino migrant workers and their families.

But more so, it was envisioned as the beacon of hope for Filipinos who have long been enduring time away from their homes in service of their loved ones, forwarding their concerns and advocating for their rights and welfare.

And while it is still underway, our fellow Filipinos can most certainly count on the government to continue lending a hand to our countrymen, wherever in the world they may be.

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