(SEPTEMBER 17, 2019) – Lawmakers said on Tuesday that they are studying the creation of a separate department for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), as directed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said in a hearing that both houses of Congress will create a technical working group to look into the problems of OFWs.
“Kailangan marinig lahat ng hirap na dinadaanan ng mga OFW. They have so much faith kahit pupuntahan nila delikado,” Cayetano said.
Duterte in July ordered officials to establish the department this year to rid the country of illegal recruiters and prevent abuses to OFWs.
“Bawal na ‘yang recruitment diyan sa labas. That kind of mechanism of recruiting Filipino workers abroad has been abused. Mga kababayan ko puro biktima, puro kawawa,” he said.
Cayetano said lawmakers will consolidate 31 bills on the proposed department and submit the final version to Duterte for his approval by December.
Cayetano said the department will speed up the processing of various complaints from OFWs.
At present, the government serves OFWs through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, among others.
“Tinuturo sila parati kung saan-saan pero ang OFWs don’t always have all the time. Huwag magka-ilusyon ang mga government agencies na kapag na-create na ang department ay nandyan pa rin ang problema ng DOLE at DFA na magturuan,” he said.
OFWs said they welcome the move. They complained they have resorted to asking help from other OFWs because of red tape in various government agencies.
“Napakahirap na ang sinasabi lagi ng konsulado ay refer nila kami pero walang nagiging aksyon o sobrang bagal. Bandang huli kami na mismo nagko-contribute para lang mapauwi kapwa Pilipino kahit alam naman namin mayroong pondo,” Renato Marcelo an OFW in China said.
Marcelo expects the department to open in December as a Christmas gift to fellow OFWs.
Cayetano said lawmakers will hear the concerns of all the stakeholders, but he acknowledged that the creation of a separate department is only one way to address the problems of OFWs.
“Lahat ng gawin dito in theory ay madali pero kahit sundin lahat ng patakaran minsan napapaikot pa rin. Hindi magagawa ng gobyerno ito kung ang recruiters di makikiisa. We are hoping that the department of OFWs will not be a cure-all but a giant step in the right direction,” Cayetano said. (Kathryn Kristina Jose/JMF)