Scoping the future of Davao migrants

It is a Monday morning in Davao City on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. 52 local government officials and representatives of local Community Social Organizations have gathered in a conference room of Ateneo de Davao University. They seem eager to start the Stakeholder Conversation on Migration, Environment, Peace and Development that our partner organization MMCEAI (Mindanao Migrants Center for Empowering Actions Inc) is hosting. The event is a significant step towards MMCEAI’s objective to make migration safe for Mindanao residents.

Reducing Davao migrants’ vulnerability to trafficking

314,390 men and women of Davao Region are currently living abroad as OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers), considering only documented cases. In all stages of the migration process, migrant workers regularly become victims of human rights violations, including physical abuse and bonded labor. Poverty pressures them to accept unverified job offers abroad, and many are unaware of the risks and their rights.

The Davao Regional Development Plan 2017 – 2022 aims to tackle the issues of OFWs and contains strategies on reducing vulnerability of individuals and families. As the midterm of the plan is approaching, Davao city’s National Economic and Development Authority is preparing a policy revision. A representative of the regional government unit is present at the Stakeholder Conversation, contributes valuable data, and encourages the participants to share their recommendations with the local government. She assures, “Your outputs of the Stakeholder Conversation today can be inputs for our revision of the Davao Regional Development Plan”.

In the span of the Stakeholder Conversation, region specific migration issues were identified and strategies for the stakeholders to mitigate and respond to them were discussed. One of the resulting recommendations was to harness additional support programs for OFW returnees, seeing that even in the reintegration phase manifold problems are faced. When returnees are unable to reintegrate properly and invest their saved assets sustainably, they are at high risk to slip into unethical labor migration again, entering a vicious cycle.

Labor migration affects large parts of the Philippine population – 10 percent of the population are currently working abroad- and most people have either personal experiences, relatives or close friends who have struggled with challenges of labor migration. You could feel the personal significance in the active and dedicated participation of the stakeholders; and as they were discussing migration issues some tears were shed.


The Stakeholder Conversation was held on October 8, 2018 as part of the project Protection of Women Migrants from Mindanao from exploitation and abuse by MMCEAI, supported by AWO International through funds of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).