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Senators urged to support creation of OFW department

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star
Senators urged to support creation of OFW department
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said in yesterday’s Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development hearing that the proposed new department seeks to streamline and manage all concerns of Filipinos overseas, including their families and dependents in the Philippines.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday urged senators to support the proposal to create a Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFIL) to manage the concerns of over 10 million OFWs and showcase the Philippines as one of the first in the world with such legislation.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said in yesterday’s Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development hearing that the proposed new department seeks to streamline and manage all concerns of Filipinos overseas, including their families and dependents in the Philippines.

“On behalf of the entire executive branch, may we please ask the honorable senators for the support of the entire Senate to pass this bill, most expeditiously,” Nograles told the committee chaired by Sen. Joel Villanueva.

“The proposed DOFIL law codifies the Philippines’ commitment to fulfill the 23 objectives of the Global Compact for safe orderly and regular migration. This will set an example for other countries to follow and will showcase the Philippines as one of the first with such legislation in the world, and will truly put us on the map for others to benchmark against and emulate,” he added.

Villanueva, however, suspended the proceeding following the motion of Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon to defer the DOFIL hearing until Senate Bill 244—an act of rightsizing the national government to improve public service delivery—is heard before the proper committee.

In his manifestation, Drilon pointed out that he had already raised the issue of a bloated bureaucracy that has forced Congress to allot a significant portion of the budget to personnel services.

“And that the push for this new department comes as the government struggles to source funds for COVID-19 stimulus measures and vaccine procurement,” he noted.

Drilon also quoted Senate President Vicente Sotto III that the body should instead prioritize the deliberation of the government’s rightsizing, now pending before the committee on civil service, government reorganization and professional regulation.

He noted that even President Duterte mentioned in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in 2019 and 2017 for Congress to review and pass the Government Rightsizing Bill to reconfigure the existing Metro Manila-centric bureaucracy and streamline government systems to deliver services without delay and within a short timeline.

Nograles said the proposal to create DOFIL was a product of consultation meetings and reflects the unified and collective position of agencies, that include the presidential legislative liaison office, Office of the Deputy Executive Secretary for legal affairs, POEA, OWWA, DFA and DOLE and the DSWD, NEDA and the Commission on Filipinos Overseas.

“The fundamental reason for creating (the department) is to uphold the primordial duty of the state to protect the rights and promote the welfare and interest of our Filipinos overseas. The DOFIL is likewise necessary to refocus, and consolidate the overlapping functions that can be found in the DFA,” he explained.

He said the DOFIL hopes to contribute to right-sizing the bureaucracy as it will not create a totally new office but just an amalgamation of all key offices, dealing with migrant workers protection into a single entity that is focused on its mandate and avoids overlapping of functions.

“It consolidates the budgetary allocations to a single public entity to better and more efficiently dynamic times is of utmost urgency, and it cannot wait,” Nograles noted.

Meanwhile, the agricultural advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan said the creation of a separate fisheries department would boost the country’s marine production by at least nine percent and contribute to achieving food security.

In a virtual forum yesterday, the group expressed support for the bills in both the House of Representatives and Senate that seek to establish a Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR)—one that is separate from the Department of Agriculture.

Currently, there are 19 bills in the House and three in the Senate that call for its establishment. Louise Maureen Simeon

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