SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go appealed to fellow lawmakers and executive officials to listen to the appeals for the creation of a single department that will handle concerns of overseas Filipinos, many of whom are adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises in various parts of the world.
“Huwag nating kalimutan na mahigit 10 million ang overseas Filipinos natin. Ibig sabihin, mahigit 10% ‘yan ng buong populasyon. Dapat mayroon silang departamento na nakatutok sa kanila at hindi na nila kailangan pang manawagan sa radio station o sa Facebook,” Go said during an interview after leading the distribution of assistance to typhoon victims in Bagumbayan, Quezon City.
As of November 5, the Department of Foreign Affairs reports a total of 237,363 OFWs have been repatriated since the start of the pandemic while over 107,000 are expected to return before the year concludes.
“Marami pong pinauwi na mga OFWs. Papaano ngayon pag palabas na naman sila?” he asked.
The senator disclosed that the Senate is set to discuss on December 7 the proposed measure which seeks to establish a Department of Overseas Filipinos (DOOF).
Senate Bill 1835, filed by Go on September 16, 2020, is the second iteration of SBN 202 he filed last year. It considers inputs from the concerned executive agencies and has been endorsed by the Office of the Cabinet Secretary and Presidential Legislative Liaison Office to the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development. SBN 1835 is a priority measure of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Hopefully, tuloy-tuloy na ito at sasang-ayon na ang mga iba’t ibang ahensya ng executive branch dahil matagal na itong inaasam at hinihiling ng mga kababayan natin,” said Go.
The proposed department, if created, shall bring together in one agency all the responsibilities pertaining to Filipinos overseas that are presently scattered among numerous departments and
agencies. By doing so, government can streamline and improve the delivery of critical services, particularly to distressed OFWs and other overseas Filipinos.
The DOOF will be primarily responsible for protecting the rights and promoting the welfare of overseas Filipinos. It shall formulate, plan, coordinate, promote, administer, and implement policies, as well as undertake systematic national programs for managing and monitoring the foreign employment of Filipino workers and their reintegration once they come home.
The following offices will be integrated into the DOOF: the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs of the DFA, the Commission on Overseas Filipinos, all Philippine Overseas Labor Offices under the Department of Labor and Employment, the International Labor Affairs Bureau under DOLE, and International Social Services Office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
The proposed DOOF shall also exercise administrative supervision over the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration which shall be attached to the envisioned department.
Go’s bill directs the establishment of Migrant Workers and other Overseas Filipinos Resource Centers in every country of destination for distressed overseas Filipinos who are in need of shelter, medical attention and other forms of assistance.
It will also set up Overseas Filipino Malasakit Centers throughout the Philippines. These one-stop shops will issue clearances and permits, validate overseas job offers, and offer reintegration services, seminars and workshops to migrant Filipinos and their families.
“Ngayon na nahihirapan sila dahil sa krisis sa buong mundo at napilitan ang iba na umuwi, dapat lang bigyan ng sapat na atensyon ang kanilang mga pangangailangan para matulungan ang ating mga bagong bayani na makabangon muli. Mas maisasaayos ang mga programa at serbisyo ng gobyerno kung mayroong sariling departamento na mamamahala sa mga pangangailangan ng mga overseas Filipinos,” Go said.