Following President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign promise to give more protections to our countrymen working abroad, a lawmaker is pushing for the creation of a department that will focus solely on their needs and welfare of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Rep. Arthur C. Yap (3rd District, Bohol) filed House Bill 822, which seeks to establish the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW).
Yap said a separate department for OFWs is necessary because overseas workers have their own unique concerns that pertain only to their sector.
The three-term lawmaker said many Filipinos working abroad have suffered various forms of abuse, which include experiencing rude treatment from government representatives or embassy officials, exploitation of any sort by an employer or a recruiter, unfair charging of unnecessary fees, illegal and untimely termination of work contract as well as human trafficking.
Yap said at present, there are several government agencies mandated to address the main concerns of OFWs, which include repatriation, illegal recruitment, excessive collection of placement fees, and legal assistance.
These agencies are the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) of the Department of Labor (DOLE).
“Unfortunately, the government has a very complicated migration management structure. While coordination of these agencies is essential, they often lead to overlapping of functions and responsibilities and wastage of public funds,” Yap said.
Aside from ensuring the protection of the rights of the OFWs and the promotion of their welfare, safety and support, the bill seeks to ensure that the government reaches out and cooperates with other states where there are OFWs.
Likewise, measure aims to develop a database for OFWs to ensure assistance in times of distress.
The proposal also intends to establish a strong and effective regulatory system that will ensure only fit Filipinos are allowed to work outside of the country.
Another objective of the bill is to promote the human capital development of OFWs to enable them to better compete in other countries.
On the other hand, the measure aims to extend deployment and repatriation assistance and support to OFWs as well as promote the integration of returning OFWs.
Under the bill, the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers or Department shall be headed a Secretary and shall be composed of the Office of the Secretary, the Office of the Undersecretaries, and Assistant Secretaries and Regional and Assistant Regional Directors.
The Secretary shall be appointed by the President of the Philippines with confirmation of the Commission on Appointments.
The Department shall be authorized to establish, operate and maintain a Regional Office in each of the administrative regions of the country as the need arises.
The bill provides for the creation of a Special Assistance Revolving Fund for OFWs in distress, both documented and undocumented, in the amount of P1 billion.
The fund will be utilized for repatriations; medical expenses, hospitalization and purchase of medicine; migration fees for overstaying Filipinos; legal assistance; payment of blood money when necessary and basic necessities of OFWs caught in emergencies or are detained.
The measure further provided that 30 percent of the total fund shall be allotted to support a livelihood training program or re-training of returning OFWs in new skills and literacy. (HREP-MAPRS)