A measure creating the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) and Foreign Employment was filed in the House of Representatives.
The bill is principally authored by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, his wife Taguig City Rep. Ma. Laarni Cayetano and presidential son Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte.
The three are pushing for the creation of a single agency to provide an integrated, more comprehensive and sustainable approach to address the problems and concerns of overseas Filipino workers and their families.
The Department of Overseas Filipino Workers and Foreign Employment aims to ensure the agency would manage, harmonize and strengthen existing policies and programs on migration.
Speaker Cayetano said the consolidated department must ensure the delivery of services and provision of assistance will be faster, better, more responsive and more efficient.
To date, there are major agencies that have mandates relative to overseas employment and overseas Filipinos concerns, namely, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), and the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs (OUMWA) of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
“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 migration in general and of OFWs in particular,” Cayetano said.
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary and now Speaker Cayetano believes that the growing needs and challenges faced by the overseas Filipinos call for an Overseas Filipinos Assistance Fund that would serve Filipino migrants better than the existing Assistance to Nationals Fund and Legal Assistance Fund.
The bill proposes to provide P5 billion to address the needs of regular and irregular OFWs in distress, and OFWs returning to the Philippines.
During the stint of Cayetano at the Department of Foreign Affairs, the funding for the Assistance to Nationals Fund and Legal Assistance Fund was significantly increased to more than one billion pesos.
The Secretary of Department of OFW and Foreign Employment shall be assisted by six Undersecretaries that will handle the following areas: Administration and Finance, Foreign Employment, Reintegration and Social Services, Overseas Filipinos, Assistance to Overseas Filipinos in Distress, International Labor Affairs.
Under the bill, an Emergency Response and Action Center Unit will be created as one of the major units in the unified agency, to be headed by an Assistant Secretary. It will operate a 24/7 call center and media and social media monitoring center to respond to the emergency needs of overseas Filipinos, overseas Filipino workers and their families wherever they may be.
Cayetano hopes that with the passage of this measure, the Philippines can better fulfill the objectives of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), which is an inter-governmentally negotiated agreement aimed to promote the rights of migrant workers.
With Jezreel Biscocho