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Duterte vows to create OFW department

DOHA – A new department exclusively tasked to address the concerns of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) would be established “in a few months,” President Duterte told a gathering of Filipinos in Bahrain’s capital city of Manama on Friday. 

He made the promise a day after declaring that such undertaking would require congressional action.

“In a few months, you will have a Department on OFW only,” the President told the Filipino community in Bahrain.

At present, the Department of Labor and Employment handles issues related to OFWs. Before assuming office, Duterte vowed to create a separate department that would promote the welfare and address the concerns of the more than 2.4 million Filipino migrant workers worldwide.

Some Filipinos asked Duterte about an OFW department during their meeting with the President in Riyadh last Thursday. Duterte responded by saying creating such agency would require Congress’ approval.

“The OFW (department) will be separate from the Department of Labor. It is coming, but it would be in Congress... There will be a separate (agency for) sailors. Maritime authority will also be separated,” the President told about 2,000 Filipinos in Riyadh. 

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“The creation of a department does not belong to me,” he added.

Pending the creation of an OFW department, Duterte said he wants Filipino migrant workers to relay their concerns to him.

“I want you to have direct line with me, if not you can call any relative to call my attention,” he said in Bahrain last Friday.

Duterte stressed that he would not tolerate any form of corruption or oppression under his watch.

“I do not like abuses. I do not like corruption. I do not want oppression and we will be treated equally,” he said.

He also reiterated his call for Filipinos to be assertive and to resist any attempt to extort money from them.

“If they open your luggage, tell them ‘Do not do that, I will slap you. Why will you open that?’” Duterte said. “You create a scene because that will reach me,” he added.

Duterte also advised Filipinos to apply for overseas work online and to avoid “fly-by-night” recruitment agencies.

He also vowed to reduce the processing time for migrant workers’ papers from six weeks to three weeks.

Duterte was on the last leg here of his three-country visits to the Middle East after Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

The President visited Saudi Arabia from April 12 to 14 and Bahrain from April 14 to 16.

In Manama, Duterte and Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa witnessed the signing of four bilateral agreements.

Duterte arrived here on Friday at 8:50 p.m. (1:50 a.m. Saturday Philippine time) for a three-day visit.  – Artemio Dumlao

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