The creation of a Department solely dedicated to the needs and concerns of Overseas Filipino Workers has been trending lately. However, while it currently carries the support of the House, its provisions are still a topic of debate in the Senate.
One of the biggest worries that critics have expressed about the creation of the DOFW is that it can be a symbol of the government’s failure to commit to its mandate of providing local employment. The fear is that a Department of OFWs would not only serve to streamline the services needed by OFWs, but also to perpetuate labor migration rather than engage Filipinos to stay and work in the country.
This concern however, can be viewed as a form of hypocrisy.
The main goal of the creation of the DOFW is to streamline the current bureaucratic web addressing the needs of OFWs in order to better serve the nation’s modern-day heroes, or “Bagong Bayani.” Having only one department that tackles their issues and concerns is salient to their wellbeing. Going to a faraway land, to work for months or even years away from their families, is a huge sacrifice taken on by many brave Filipinos. This doesn’t even mention the risk of abuse, loss, and uncertainty – which many of them have already experienced. To have a one-stop-shop that knows what and how to address their needs is a form of respect to their efforts, particularly in light of the fact that they are forced to migrate just to provide for their families.
It is also a harsh reality that there is a big lack of quality job opportunities in the country, which the administration is currently taking steps to alleviate. On the part of over 9.4 million unemployed Filipinos (as per the SWS May 2019 survey), working abroad can be very enticing due to the promise of bigger and better pay. When they decide to go abroad to work, the DOFW would help them to find more secure employment where their rights and wellbeing as migrant workers would be respected and their needs while outside of the Philippines would be addressed. The department can be an effective medium- to long-term solution for reducing unemployment. At the same time, the department could provide some economic leeway while the administration is implementing programs to provide local jobs with quality pay and security.
During the House of Representatives’ joint committee hearing on the creation of the DOFW last September 17, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano likewise stressed that in his version of the bill, he is amendable to sunset provisions that clearly define the policy of giving local employment. Such provisions would come in handy when the local economy has improved and migrating abroad is no longer seen as the only solution for Filipinos to secure a better quality of life.
We’re not saying that proposed measures sitting with Congress are not without any cracks or loopholes. This is why these are undergoing a rigorous run through our country’s legislative system. But the creation of the Department of OFW is at its core a practical recognition of the sacrifices made by Filipino migrant workers, a means to promote and protect the rights of current and potential OFWs, and a step forward in valuing the country’s invaluable human resources. For OFWs and many other Filipinos, this is a form of justice they need and deserve.