House to pass bill creating OFW department next month
The proposed measure is among the top priorities of the 18th Congress in response to the legislative agenda set by President Duterte during his State of the Nation Address last month.

House to pass bill creating OFW department next month

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - August 13, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives yesterday vowed to pass next month the proposed measure to create a new department that would cater to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda said the commitment was made during the mini Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) meeting at Malacañang last week.

“Two weeks before we go into plenary on Oct. 5, that bill should be passed already along with other priority revenue measures,” added Salceda who chairs the House ways and means committee.

The proposed measure is among the top priorities of the 18th Congress in response to the legislative agenda set by President Duterte during his State of the Nation Address last month.

Meanwhile, the Alliance of Bonafide Recruiters for OFWs’ Advancement and Development (ABROAD), the largest group of recruitment agencies in the country that handles over one million OFWs, called for the immediate passage of House Bill No. 2 and Senate Bill 202, which both seek to create the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW).

The House bill is co-authored by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and by Deputy Speaker and presidential son Paolo Duterte, while Sen. Christopher Go authored the Senate version.

ABROAD co-convenor Mary Cecile Francisco said the measure is necessary to ensure the welfare and protection of OFWs as well as their access to government services.

“Many of our countrymen continue to seek employment abroad in order to help their families, and the discussions leading to the creation of a DOFW will allow all the stakeholders involved – OFWs, placement and recruitment agencies, legislators, policymakers, NGOs, civil society groups and the government offices involved in OFW deployment – to sit down and find ways to better protect the interests of our OFWs,” she added.

The group, which has over 500 member agencies, vowed to support the measure and will continue to be the “government’s partner in nation-building, especially during times of economic downturn.”

It also promised to be the first line of defense in ensuring that the OFW rights and welfare are protected.

The DOFW is expected to consolidate and harmonize the services for OFWs, which are currently served by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), and the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs (OUMWA) of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).  

Under the bill, the DOFW will be funded with P5 billion to address the needs of regular and irregular OFWs in distress, and those returning to the Philippines. Its secretary will be assisted by six undersecretaries: administration and finance, foreign employment, reintegration and social services, overseas Filipinos, assistance to overseas Filipinos in distress, and international labor affairs.     

It also seeks to create an Emergency Response and Action Center Unit that will operate a 24/7 call center and a media and social media monitoring center to respond to the emergency needs of Filipinos overseas, the OFWs and their families wherever they may be.

The House leadership has already committed to prioritize this measure and pass it within this month.
As of September last year, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data showed at least 2.3 million OFWs. 

The foreign remittances and money that went through channels outside of the international banking system drive the growth of the country’s consumer-led economy with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) pegging OFW remittances at $32.21 billion last year.

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