AT the celebration of Araw ng Pasasalamat sa OFW Summit in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, on Friday, President Rodrigo Duterte expressed his support for the proposal to establish a separate executive department for Overseas Filipinos particularly OFWs to protect Filipino migrant workers from abusive illegal recruiters.
“Bawal na ang recruitment sa labas. Kung gusto nila, under the supervision of government and walang horrendous charges, hindi ako papayag nang ganoon,” said the President during the thanksgiving event for OFWs.
“Apurahin ko ’yang Department of OFW,” he added. “By December. Buong Pilipinas ito. Bawal na ‘yang recruitment diyan sa labas na punta ka doon. Doon ka makipag-deal, may listahan doon. Mamili ka na lang kung sino ang gusto mo at ’yan regulated and I have the power to do that because that kind of mechanism of recruiting Filipino workers abroad has been abused and abused and abused,” said the President.
Meanwhile, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go echoed the President’s sentiments, citing that many OFWs continue to seek assistance after being victimized by illegal recruiters.
“Nais po ng Presidente na maiwasan ang illegal recruitment ng mga OFW. Marami pong mga biktima na lumalapit sa kanya at lumalapit sa akin na nabibiktima ng mga ito. Dapat na itong matigil,” Go said in an interview.
According to Go, many Filipinos continue to fall prey to exploitative illegal recruiters who impose excessive fees over false promises of employment abroad, sometimes resulting in victims becoming trapped as dues payers, and even the confiscation of their passports while employed abroad.
To address this issue, Go cited that one of the first Senate Bills he filed was SB 202 or the Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2019.
This legislative measure proposes the establishment of a Department of Overseas Filipinos to serve as the umbrella agency to specifically address all the issues and concerns of Filipinos abroad and their families, to afford them full protection, promote their full and just employment, mitigate the social costs back home, and serve as a channel to address OFW issues and grievances.
“Masakit makitang iniiwan ng mga kababayan natin ang mga pamilya at mahal nila sa buhay upang makapagtrabaho lamang sa mga malalayong lugar. Suklian natin ang kanilang sakripisyo ng mas maayos na serbisyo para sa kanila at kanilang mga pamilya” he added.
Once passed into law, the functions of POEA, OWWA, DFA-OUMWA, Commission on Filipino Overseas and International Labor Affairs Bureau will be transferred to this Department.
The measure further creates an Overseas Filipinos Assistance Fund to provide financial support to Filipino migrants in distress, inclusive of repatriation and provisions for life-saving funds in times of great emergency or distress, and provides training and livelihood loans for OFWs returning to the Philippines for good.
The bill also mandates the creation of “OFW Malasakit Centers” in all provinces and major cities to ensure prompt and efficient provision of services to OFWs and their families such as acquisition of government permits, validation of overseas job offers, grievance and complaints desks and reintegration services.
Go emphasized the need to streamline services for migrant workers. “Hindi na po dapat sila ipagpasa pasa ng ahensya. Hindi na po dapat nakakalito proseso na dadaanan nila sa gobyerno. Iisang department na lamang ang tutugon sa lahat ng kanilang pangangailangan.”
Currently, OFWs need to go to different government agencies to secure their needed documents and present their other concerns such as employment and technical education.
When asked about the likelihood of the proposed measure passing, Go has high hopes that President Rodrigo Duterte will certify the OFW Department Bill as “urgent” to get it passed into law before the year ends.