New OWWA Administrator Arnell Ignacio Plans to Create Council of Elders to Tap Retirees’ Expertise

OWWA has hordes of OFWs to care for, an estimated 1.77 million of them across the world, based on 2022 figures from the Philippine Statistics Office (PSA).

By EDD K. USMAN | Twitter: @edd1819 | Instagram: @bluestar091 | Facebook: SDN — Science, Digital & Current Affairs

MANILA — “When I see retirees, it’s like (seeing) a burning library!”

Entertainment personality Arnaldo Arevalo “Arnell” Ignacio, new administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), made this statement when he was interviewed recently over DZRH Radio Station’s “Pulso ng Metro” (Pulse of the Metro) hosted by Ms. Mare Yao.

His words seemed to reflect a genuine yearning for the yet untapped stock of “institutional knowledge” from the minds  of OWWA retirees.

While, apparently, he can’t do anything about retirement as it is mandated by law, Ignacio valued the institutional knowledge that OWWA retirees accumulated which they will bring with them when they leave the agency.

The value of OWWA retirees’ institutional knowledge

That’s why, he said he plans to harness the knowledge they have in dealing with and responding to the needs, concerns and welfare of Filipinos who left their homeland and family to seek a greener pasture abroad.

Ignacio revealed at least four reform measures he plans to put in place to make the agency’s work more effective and efficient in carrying out OWWA’s mandates toward Filipino migrant workers.

At the top of his list is (1) on improving communications; (2) better information management; (3) tapping of OWWA retirees to make use of — and not lay to waste — their institutional knowledge; and (4) making ready at moments’ notice the blueprint for OFWs in Taiwan in case the island nation’s tensions with China escalates further.

“We simplify (communications). Be ‘makulit’ (repetitive), not just one announcement. We need to be patient (in our) programs, orders,” the new OWWA chief said in mixed Pilipino and English.

On spreading information, Ignacio pointed out that “wrong information brings about wrong emotions (from the OFWs and their families). We have to make them feel that we are here for them.”

Of his valuing retirees, he has a plan for them to benefit overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

“I would like to form a Council of Elders. (When) I see retirees, it’s like (seeing) a burning library,” Ignacio says.

This, obviously, is because of the stock of institutional knowledge they possess about OFWs.

Labor Attache Nasser Mustafa gives a pre-departure briefing to OFWs in Saudi Arabia about to flyb ack to Manila in a photograph via POLO-Riyadh in May 2020. (SDN-Science and Digital News)

Of the tensions between the United States and China, partially driven by the former’s support for Taiwan, which the latter considers a part of its territory, the OWWA chief said the agency already has a blueprint for the OFWs working on the island nation which news reports placed at 200,000.

Ignacio said the blueprint is ready for execution at a moment’s notice when the need arises in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan on August 2, 2022 naturally incensed China, which threatened retaliatory measures. Her visit to the island democracy further widened the chasm between the US and China, also brought about by the former’s maritime policy on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

China then staged a massive military drill, surrounding the island nation with its military might, unleashing test missiles, flying war jets, among others.

Soon after Pelosi’s visit that demonstrated American support for embattled Taiwan, a team of congressmen also visited the island nation. It was another wedge driven deep into the US-China rupture.

“We are monitoring the situation,” assures Ignacio.yu b

Ignacio wants Filipinos going to Middle East to study region’s culture

For the over a million-strong Filipino community in the different Middle East countries, he said “there is a big need to put things in order.”

He also described the region as “challenging” and the Filipinos going to work in the Middle East have to undergo a “strong training” to better prepare them for the “different culture, different environment, and very dramatic” situation they will face.

“Let’s study their culture. They have deep culture, not only (in the Middle East) but all countries (Filipinos go to),” he says.

“We have to prepare them well…first thing they face is sadness, sadness sets in…(we have to introduce) innovation. “(Let’s) bring them happiness, we will bring that back. Filipinos are by nature inclined to happiness,” Ignacio emphasizes.

He was referring to the Philippine government’s program of bringing entertainers to OFWs abroad (Hatid Saya, or Bringing Happiness) to make them feel the tradition they left behind when they sought work in foreign countries. And be happy, at least for a long moment!

Ignacio first joined the OWWA in 2018, resigned in 2019, but then re-appointed by then President Rodrigo R. Duterte as OWWA deputy administrator.

Duterte’s successor, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., appointed him to OWWA as administrator, replacing Hans Cacdac, who the President appointed to the new Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) as undersecretary.

OWWA has hordes of OFWs to care for, an estimated 1.77 million of them across the world, based on 2022 figures from the Philippine Statistics Office (PSA).

Before the outbreak of the global coronavirus health crisis in December 2019, the PSA said OFWs numbered 2.18 million.

The Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) figures of Filipino workers in the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member-countries showed Saudi Arabia has 865,121; United Arab Emirates (UAE), 649,929; Kuwait, 241,999; Qatar, 241,109; Bahrain, 55,790; and Oman, 52,769.

As of 2018, Filipinos in the US is more than two million, per the Migration Policy Institute (MPI).

That’s a whole lot of people to take care of, and one can only hope OWWA under the leadership of Ignacio is quite up to the task. (✓)

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Featured image is new OWWA Administrator Arnell Ignacio from his Facebook page.

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