It’s about time that a Department of Overseas Filipino Workers was established to effectively oversee the deployment and employment of Filipino contract workers abroad.
There are over 2.3 million OFWs in five continents based on 2018 figures collated by the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Little wonder that President Rodrigo Duterte supports the proposal of Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, his former aide, knowing the compelling need for such agency and the rationale behind it. Manong Digong wants the department for OFWs created by December.
Senator Go has filed, among others, Senate Bill No. 202—the Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2019.
It will not be just another agency that will unnecessarily expand the bureaucracy. In fact, it seeks to straighten out and streamline the government functions that concern OFWs.
Under this measure, the department will serve as the umbrella agency to address all issues and concerns of Filipinos abroad and their families.
Once the measure is enacted, the department will be established and integrate all the functions of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Commission on Filipino Overseas, and the International Labor Affairs Bureau.
The proposal, if realized, will cut down the fat in the bureaucracy and eliminate duplication of functions which is a waste of public funds.
Senator Go envisions the department as a one-stop shop which will address all the concerns of prospective OFWs from the point of recruitment and job application to deployment and monitoring of their work conditions.
It is understandable, too, that foremost in the mind of its author, Sen. Go, is the guaranteed protection of OFWs from greedy and scheming illegal recruiters, as well as abusive employers overseas.
Countless Filipino workers have suffered and quite a number have been killed in the hands of cruel employers in various countries. Female OFWs have been the most susceptible to physical abuse, particularly molestation and rape of domestic workers.
Male OFWs are vulnerable to unfair labor practices.
Manong Digong simply will not allow OFWs suffering anymore.
“We won’t allow recruitment from outside. If they want [outside recruiters], they will have to be under the supervision of the government and there will be no horrendous charges. I won’t allow that,” said the President during the Araw ng Pasasalamat sa OFW Summit held Friday in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
Stricter regulations on job recruitment agencies and stiffer penalties are being sought by the Anti-Crime and Terrorism Through Community Involvement and Support (ACT-CIS).
“We fully support such legislation seeking to create the Department of OFWs to give the public service and assistance to our modern day heroes and their families deserve,” said ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Yap.
I agree with Senator Go and I know for a fact that many Filipinos continue to fall prey to exploitative illegal recruiters who impose excessive fees while making false promises of employment abroad.
My media and public assistance office and those of my brothers have been inundated with complaints and grievances of victims of illegal recruiters for over three decades now.
The measure also aims to create 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 country for good.
The bill shall also mandate 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 the acquisition of government permits, validation of overseas job offers, complaints desks, and reintegration services.
Currently, OFWs need to go to different government agencies to secure their documents and present their other concerns such as employment and technical education.
We are hoping as Senator Go does that Manong Digong certifies the OFW Department bill as urgent to get it passed and enacted into law by yearend.