SPEAKER Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) to convene an inter-agency meeting to discuss how their respective programs can be integrated to respond to issues and concerns affecting overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) abroad and those who are returning to the country.
During Tuesday’s hybrid briefing of the House committee on public accounts chaired by Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor on the whole-of-government approach in its migration policy response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Cayetano cited the need to submit an “integrated and comprehensive plan” for OFWs.
To ensure that the needs of the OFW programs are sustained amid the battle against COVID-19, Cayetano asked the DFA, DoLE, and other OFW-related agencies to submit their funding requirements that can be funded either under the Bayanihan to Recover as One (Bayanihan II) or the 2021 National Budget.
The House Leader pointed out that there is a need for the OFW-related agencies to convene an inter-agency meeting to determine the missing elements or the weakest links in the system.
He said returning OFWs often experience being pointed to one agency after the other for their documentation, training, funding, and educational needs.
Cayetano recalled that during his stint as Foreign Affairs Secretary, an inter-agency working group was formed to identify existing programs across different government agencies and discuss areas of cooperation and integration.
“It requires full coordination and adoption of a whole-of-government approach,” he said.
Cayetano recommended that the chairmen of the House committees on labor and on overseas workers affairs be included in the proposed inter-agency meeting.
“We need to work together to survive the crisis and execute a united response to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Cayetano had earlier proposed that the agencies should focus on 5Rs – relief, repatriation, recovery, return and reintegration.
Under the 5Rs, the DOLE provides relief to returning OFWs while the DFA works for their repatriation.
Assistance from agencies such as the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), Department of Science and Technology (DoST), and financial institutions will be needed for their recovery and reintegration.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr), meanwhile, assists the OFWs in their return.
“I do believe that andaming programa ng gobyerno, pero hindi alam ng mga OFW at ng kanilang pamilya i-access ‘to, at kung ma-aaccess man ito, minsan, the red tape that still exists causes delays and pain and hurt, and minsan, ang reputation tuloy natin, ‘pag hindi pa na-media, hindi pa gagalaw,” said Cayetano.