OFW department creation pressed

September 17, 2019
Martin Romualdez and Alan Peter Cayetano

THE House of Representatives targets the fast approval of a bill that seeks to create a Department of Overseas Filipino Workers this year.

In an interview shortly after attending the first public hearing, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said they are aiming to have the proposed law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte before the year ends.

Yesterday, the committees on government reorganization and overseas workers affairs jointly tackled the 31 bills filed to create the OFW department.

Aside from Cayetano two authors of a measure also seeking the establishment of a OFW department, Majority Leader Martin Romualdez and Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez, pressed for the need to establish department that would address the problems and concerns of the Filipinos working abroad.

“Marami talagang issues at maraming government agencies na may mga tanong. So to rationalize all of its functions, and to be able to explain to people bakit mas effective kung merong Department of Overseas Filipino Workers, that would be the challenge,” Cayetano, the principal author, said.

“So if you’re an OFW, nagkaproblema ka sa abroad, anong role ng DFA? Anong roles ng POEA, ng OWWA? Sinong magiging tao ng Department of OFW? Magkakaroon ba ng regional offices ang Department of OFW dito sa Pilipinas or magjo-join pa tayo sa DOLE?” he added.

The Romualdez couple emphasized that the absence of a single agency to address foreign employment concerns has made it difficult for the government to focus on the needs and demands of foreign Filipino employment, in general, and of OFWs, in particular.

“Furthermore, the lack of coordination among these agencies and redundancy of work lead to confusion among our OFWs and compromise the services to be rendered to our modern-day heroes. Despite the existence of agencies to protect Filipinos abroad, numerous problems and challenges confront OFWs and their families: illegal recruitment, employer abuse, sexual abuse, inadequate benefits, inefficient and ineffective delivery of services to OFWs, lack of representation of the OFW interests in the agencies that are supposed to protect and promote their rights, among others,” the House leaders said.

“Currently, there are different agencies that have mandates relative to overseas employment. Hence, there is a pressing need to establish an agency that would manage, harmonize, and strengthen existing policies and programs to address the needs of foreign Filipino employment.

“We support the immediate passage of the proposed department of OFWs,” they added.

Aside from the creation of the department, Cayetano’s bill also sought to establish OFW Centers initially in countries where there were large concentrations of Filipino migrant workers to serve as “one-stop shops” for counseling and legal services, welfare assistance, and other programs.

The OFW department would also establish one-stop OFW Malasakit Centers in all provinces and major cities to ensure that services were delivered to OFWs and their families.