By Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral, Reporter

OFWs to be aided by new, multipurpose ID LABOR SECRETARY Silvestre H. Bello III on Tuesday, July 4, said the overseas employment certificates (OECs) for Filipinos working abroad will be replaced with a universal identification card that can be used for government transactions and eventually as a passport.

In a press briefing at Malacañang, Mr. Bello said “all bona fide” overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will be given an ID called iDOLE or “ID of the Department of Labor and Employment,” which they could also present at the airport to skip paying travel tax and terminal fee.

The initiative is one of the major priorities of the Duterte administration as many OFWs had long complained about the difficulty and long queues in obtaining OECs whenever they have to return home or fly back to their workplaces abroad.

According to Mr. Bello, Filipino expats could also use the iDOLE for their Social Security System, Pag-Ibig (Home Development Mutual Fund), and PhilHealth transactions, adding that his department, together with President Rodrigo R. Duterte, would launch the program on July 12.

“That (iDOLE) to me is a major gift of the President to our OFWs who we always call as the ‘bagong bayani,’” Mr. Bello said.

Mr. Bello said DoLE would also coordinate with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Justice (DoJ) to explore a system that would allow iDOLEs to be eventually used as passports by OFWs.

“That will be through diplomatic channels,” the Labor chief said.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that an estimated 2.2 million Filipinos work abroad from April to September 2016, with Saudi Arabia being their leading destination.

Other preferred workplaces are the United Arab Emirates (15.9%), Europe (6.6%), Kuwait (6.4%), and Qatar (6.2%).

Money sent home by OFWs totaled $2.083 billion last April, 5.9% lower than the $2.213 billion last year and down a fifth from the record-high $2.615-billion inflow seen in March.

In a statement, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas attributed the drop in remittances to the repatriation of workers under Saudi Arabia’s 90-day amnesty program for undocumented foreigners.