Bill seeks to create department for OFWs

A senate bill creating a dedicated department for overseas Filipinos workers (OFWs) which will look after the affairs of 12 million Pinoys abroad has been filed.

Senator Cynthia Villar submitted Senate Bill 141 which creates the Department of Migration and Development to addresss the problem of redundant and difficult procedures and unnecessary fees government agencies impose on OFWs.

Once enacted into law, the department will recommend and implement the government’s policies, plans and programs for the promotion of protection, safety, development, support, of and for Filipinos overseas and their families left behind.

“It is appropriate to create a government agency in the executive department, which shall have the exclusive function of protecting and enforcing the welfare and rights of Filipinos overseas. We need an empowered agency that will adequately support and give assistance to them,” Villar said.

The Department of Migration and Development is envisioned to develop, implement and improve coordination with other countries with the presence of Filipinos and monitor foreign developments to ensure the most reasonable working conditions for the OFWs and create a proactive approach in providing assistance to them especially in times of war and civil unrest, whether potential or apparent.

It will also promote, develop and monitor the continuing education, training and qualification, availability and deployment of OFWs and coordinate with concerned agencies in the training of overseas Filipinos to improve their competitiveness globally.

Villar noted that despite the presence of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA), even taking into account the assistance provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), many of our Filipino overseas see that they are being neglected by government.

“There are reports of numerous complaints and resentment towards government harbored by overseas Filipino workers apparently brought about by the government’s delayed and inadequate support and assistance while they are facing difficult predicaments abroad,” she said.

Under the bill, POEA and OWWA will be attached to the department for policy and program coordination.

The bill also seeks to create the P1-billion Special Assistance Revolving Fund for Filipino Migrants, including both documented and undocumented. It will be used for emergency repatriation; medical expenses; immigration penalties; legal assistance; payment of blood money; humanitarian assistance to families left behind; scholarships for children of Filipinos overseas; maintenance and operational expenses including capital outlay for the establishment of One-Stop Migrant Processing and Assistance Centers.

Citing Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas records in 2018, the Nacionalista Party senator said OFWs’ remittances, which amounts to $28.94 billion sent thru formal channels and $32.21 billion personal remittances are considered significant contributors to the country’s gross domestic product that keep the Philippine economy buoyant.

The bill also seeks to create an inter-agency coordinating Council on Migration and Development, which will handle death row cases involving blood money, terrorism, drug-trafficking, human trafficking as well as large-scale illegal recruitment cases involving Filipino workers, and urgent cases involving overseas or their families left behind that require humanitarian assistance.

The bill also seeks to mandate the establishment of One-Stop Migrant Assistance Centers in all major capital towns and cities nationwide to ensure prompt, efficient, vital and relevant services to migrant Filipinos and their families to include passport and authentication services, acquisition of government clearances and permits, validation of overseas job offers, reintegration services and all pertinent seminars and workshops for all stakeholders. (via Senate)

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