PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. speaks to the Filipino community in Belgium and Luxembourg during a visit to Brussels on Dec. 12. — OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY

THE PHILIPPINES plans to deploy more labor attachés next year to reinforce its network for the protection of overseas Filipino workers, according to the head of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW).

In a statement on Tuesday, the presidential palace said Migrant Workers Secretary Maria Susana “Susan” V. Ople made the announcement during a meeting in Brussels with the Filipino community in Belgium and Luxembourg.

Ms. Ople is among the officials accompanying President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. for the  Association of Southeast Asian Nations-European Union Commemorative Summit on December 12-14 in Brussels.

“Next year we will have a budget,” Ms. Ople said in mixed English and Filipino. “We will be studying this in Europe to see where we can add these attachés.”

DMW is a new department that will be fully operational by next year.

In 2019, former President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed into law a bill that would require the presence of social welfare attachés in foreign labor markets with a high concentration of Filipino workers.

The officials are mandated to handle cases of migrant workers in distress, especially those who were victims of trafficking or illegal recruitment.

At the same time, Mr. Marcos told the Belgium-based Filipinos that the government is on track to improve job quality by investing in human capital, infrastructure and the digitalization of enterprises.

He said the ultimate goal is to open more opportunities for Filipinos to remain or return and stay in the Philippines.

“I hope the day comes when no Filipino will need to leave the country due to a lack of jobs,” he said in Filipino. “We will reach this day.”

Ms. Ople also said Mr. Marcos had ordered the DMW to coordinate with the Department of Agriculture, and Department of Information Communications Technology to help upskill Filipino workers and provide business opportunities to encourage migrant workers to return home for good.

Mr. Marcos had said the state aims to develop and boost employment in the manufacturing sector to strengthen local production and reduce reliance on importation.

The manufacturing sector posted lower employment numbers in October, with 3.668 million workers from 4.45 million a month earlier, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

The International Labor Organization has said the Philippines has the potential to boost jobs in manufacturing while it recovers from the pandemic.

There were 1.77 million land- and sea-based overseas Filipino workers as of 2020, according to the latest available data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.

This is lower than the 2.18 million reported in 2019, due mainly to the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Cash remittances from overseas workers, a major dollar source for the Philippines, rose to $2.84 billion in September from $2.74 billion in the same month last year, according to the Philippine central bank. — John Victor D. Ordoñez