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Go calls for establishment of DOFWs

 

By Mario Casayuran

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go called anew on Friday for the establishment of the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFWs) as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continues to affect the lives and livelihood of many Filipino workers abroad.

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go (Senator Christopher “Bong” Go official Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go
(Senator Christopher “Bong” Go official Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Simula noong nakaraang taon pa, nanawagan na ako na sana’y mapadali ang pagbibigay ng serbisyo sa ating OFWs sa pamamagitan ng pagtayo ng isang departamento na mamamahala sa pag-aalaga ng kanilang kapakanan,’’ Go said.

(Since last year, I have been calling for the fast delivery of services to our OFWs through the establishment of a department that will solely look at their interest and welfare.)

“Noon pa lamang ay marami nang mga issues ang kinakaharap ng ating mga kababayang nagtatrabaho abroad. Ang paglipat-lipat ng ahensya ay naging pabigat na proseso sa kanila mula sa pagkuha ng kanilang mga permit, hanggang sa pagbigay ng tulong para maresolba ang mga problemang hinaharap nila sa ibang bansa,’’ he added.

(There are several issues confronting our fellow Filipinos abroad. The many agencies that they have to deal with in securing permits and other documents for their employment, and in asking for assistance when they are in distress overseas are already burdensome for our OFWs.)

“Mas lumala pa ngayon dahil sa hirap na dulot ng COVID-19 crisis. Kung mayroon pong DOFWs, mas mapapadali sana ang koordinasyon ng mga ahensya at may iisang departamento na tututok sa mga pangangailangan nila,’’ he added.

(The situation has worsened now due to the COVID-19 crisis. Things would be easier for our OFWs if there is a DOFWs, an agency that would solely attend to their needs.

The creation of the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers is one of Go’s priority bills filed just more than a month after being elected as senator in 2019. It is also part of the Duterte Administration’s priority legislative agenda.

The House of Representatives passed its version last March. However, its Senate counterpart is still pending in the Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development.

“Ako ay nanawagan sa mga kasamahan ko sa Senado na sana ay maipasa na ang panukalang itayo ang ‘Department of Overseas Filipino Workers,’’ Go explained. (I am calling on my colleagues in the Senate to support the passsage of the proposed ‘Department of Overseas Filipino Workers’,” Go said.

Under his Senate Bill (SB) 202, or the Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2019, Go said that the measure aims to make government more efficient and responsive to the needs of Filipinos abroad. The bill aims to put concerned government agencies dealing with OFW concerns under one umbrella.

The proposed measure aims to also address perennial issues, such as the need to ease the coordination among offices concerned with OFW affairs; immediate legal assistance to OFWs in distress; lack of full migration cycle approach in promoting migrant’s rights from pre-employment, onsite and reintegration services; and lack of shared database system that contains all information of all OFWs to aid in tracking their status and fast track delivery of assistance to distressed workers. Currently, services and information are scattered throughout several offices.

The proposal also aims to strengthen and streamline the government’s capability to respond to the needs of OFWs and help ease their burden in the future.

Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, stressed that the challenges currently faced by OFWs and the difficulties experienced by the government in responding to their needs show the relevance of the proposal to establish a department with a sole mandate to handle the concerns of our “modern day heroes”.

To ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of response to OFW concerns, the bill proposes that the following agencies and their powers and functions, funds and appropriations, records, equipment, property, and personnel be transferred to the new department to be established: Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Commission on Filipino Overseas (CFO), International Labor Affairs Bureau of the Department of Labor and Employment (ILAB-DOLE) and National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO).

The bill states that the powers and functions of the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs under the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and all Philippine Overseas Labor Offices and their officials under DOLE will also be transferred to the new department.

Meanwhile, to address immediate concerns of migrant workers, DFA has been facilitating mercy flights for returning OFWs. OWWA has also rolled out its Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program which provides financial assistance to COVID-19-affected OFWs who decided to come home or be repatriated, including those who were not able to go back to their work destinations abroad due to travel restrictions.

At present, the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) is implementing its Seafarers Uwi Pamilya program where seafarers stranded in Metro Manila are assisted in going home to their families in the provinces, subject to quarantine and other health protocols.

“Itinuturing natin silang mga bagong bayani. Malaki ang kanilang ambag sa paglago ng ekonomiya ng bansa. At ngayon, sa pandemyang ito, dapat natin silang tulungan at mas tutukan pa. Huwag natin silang pahirapan pa,’’ Go said.

(We consider them as the new heroes. They contribute much to the national economy. And now, with this pandemic, we should also focus on helping them.)


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://news.mb.com.ph/2020/05/15/go-calls-for-establishment-of-dofws/)

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