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Villar pushes anew for creation of migration department

Sen. Cynthia Villar leads the formal opening of the 11th Bright Leaf Awards for agriculture journalism at the Fairmont Hotel in Makati last Friday. Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Cynthia Villar pressed anew yesterday for the passage of the bill creating the Department of Migration and Development to protect the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families in the country.

Villar made the call after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations earlier forged in Manila the ASEAN Consensus on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers. 

She said Senate Bill 146 or the proposed “Department of Migration and Development Act of 2016” remains pending in the committee on labor and employment, chaired by Sen. Joel Villanueva.

“Our OFWs give as much as $50 billion annually, no other sector gives our economy that much,” Villar told dzBB. 

She said the creation of the department will not cost the government much as existing agencies involved in OFW affairs, such as those embedded in the Departments of Labor and Employment; Foreign Affairs; and the Office of the President—14 in all—will be merged.

There are an estimated 12 million OFWs. 

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Under the bill authored by Villar, the department shall develop, implement and improve coordination with other countries with the presence of Filipinos and monitor foreign developments to ensure the most reasonable working conditions for the OFWs and create a proactive approach in providing assistance to them especially in times of war and civil unrest, whether potential or apparent. 

It will also promote, develop and monitor the continuing education, training and qualification, availability and deployment of OFWs and coordinate with concerned agencies in the training of overseas Filipinos to improve their competitiveness. 

The bill also seeks to create the P1-billion Special Assistance Revolving Fund for Filipino Migrants, including both documented and undocumented. It will be used for emergency repatriation; medical expenses; immigration penalties; legal assistance; payment of blood money; humanitarian assistance to families left behind; scholarships for children of Filipinos overseas; maintenance and operational expenses including capital outlay for the establishment of One-Stop Migrant Processing and Assistance Centers. 

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