SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go called for the passage of a bill that will establish a department solely responsible for overseas Filipinos concerns and shall streamline all government efforts to protect Filipinos abroad.
In a manifestation delivered during a joint hearing led by the Senate Committee on Labor and Employment on Monday, February 15, Go reiterated President Rodrigo Duterte’s desire to fulfill his promise to establish the Department of Overseas Filipinos, which he specifically mentioned numerous times in his State of the Nation Addresses.
“The President has been steadfast in his position that the country needs a department to properly address the concerns of Filipinos overseas. Simple lamang po ang layunin ng batas na ito. Gusto natin na magkaroon ng isang ahensya ng gobyerno na magsisilbing timon para sa lahat ng concerns ng ating mga kababayan sa ibang bansa,” he explained.
The senator said that at present the migration and overseas employment functions of the government are scattered among several national agencies which has contributed to difficulties in the delivery of services and confusion among Filipinos overseas.
“Hindi naman po lingid sa ating kaalaman na kapag po ang ating mga ahensya ay hiwa-hiwalay at may kanya-kanyang mandato, ang nahihirapan po ay ang mga overseas Filipinos. Kadalasan, hindi nila alam kung saan sila pupunta. Pinagpapasa-pasahan pa. Hindi po dapat ganito ang ating gobyerno. Suklian po natin sila, ang kanilang sakripisyo, nang maayos at maaasahang serbisyo. Panahon na po na maramdaman naman nila ang ating pinagtrabahuan,” said Go.
Go filed Senate Bill 1949 or the ‘Department of Overseas Filipinos (DOFil) Act of 2020’ in December 2020. This is the third iteration of a measure filed in 2019.
“Nagkaroon na sila ng serye ng mga meetings at consultations. Nagkakaisa po ang ating mga government agencies in support of this proposed law, headed by Cabinet Secretary [Karlo] Nograles, Secretary [Silvestre] Bello, Undersecretary [Sarah] Arriola, at iba pa, sina Undersecretary [Astravel Pimentel-Naik],” said Go.
He argued the passage of the measure will enable the government to perform its mandates and tasks more efficiently, as well as help right-size the bureaucracy by streamlining all relevant state functions.
Furthermore, it will allow the government to effectively assist and advocate for the needs of Filipinos abroad by mandating the implementation of a ‘one country-team’ strategy, which will require all officials in Philippine diplomatic posts to act together as one team, per country of assignment.
“This is a measure to streamline the bureaucracy. Kaysa naman hiwa-hiwalay ang ating mga ahensya na nagsisilbi sa ating mga overseas Filipinos, hindi po ba mas maganda na nasa iisang bubong na lang sila? Iisang team, iisang mandato. Kailangan po mayroon tayong one-country-team approach,” said Go.
The Senator urged his colleagues to consider the realities on the ground where overseas Filipinos, many of whom have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are struggling to access assistance from government during these unprecedented times.
“Paano po natin masasabi na gumagana ang ating sistema eh sa tuwing ako po ay umiikot sa ating mga kababayan, paulit-ulit po ang kanilang mga hinaing? Sana po ay alalahanin natin na sila ang nangangailangan dito. Pakinggan po natin sila at intindihin natin kung saan po sila nanggagaling,” he said, before encouraging his colleagues in the Senate to work together to pass the measure.
“Nandito po tayo hindi para maghain lamang ng mga batas na hindi kailangan. Nandito po tayo para magbigay ng solusyon. Nakikiusap po ako sa ating mga kasamahan sa pagseserbisyo dito sa Senado. Help us craft this law and help us craft this in a way that would truly work and achieve its intended objectives,” ended Go.