Why we need a separate department for OFWS
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - August 17, 2019 - 12:00am

Secretaries Salvador Panelo and Bebot Bello need to explain why. But the proper question is why not?

This is an idea whose time has finally come. It’s crazy for all of us to improve the systems of deployment, development, welfare, and protection of OFWs if we still rely on the current mechanism and structure, which is incoherent, inefficient, lacking in urgency, and very ineffective. This is not a denunciation of the Duterte government. This malady has been there since the ‘70s when we started sending workers to the Middle East. All presidents after that professed their love for the OFWs. But only President Rody is doing something strategic and huge such as this.

Today, there are about 12 million Filipinos in more than 150 countries all over the world, over 90% are migrant workers. There is perhaps no significant nation in the globe without a Filipino. And faithfully, every year, they remit no less than $32 billion to the Philippine economy through the formal channels like banks and other financial intermediaries like money-sending centers like Western Union. In the informal channels, through “padala” or personal deliveries, when they come home to visit, the OFWs remit no less than $38 billion annually. The money they send keeps our economy dynamic and our people safe from poverty and want.

This inflow helps children obtain quality college education and secure their future in increasingly competitive labor markets. They also help the aged and the disabled obtain decent treatment and hospital and medical care. They help build housing and fund small- and medium-scale enterprises and businesses, thus keeping the economy vibrant even in the countryside. They help small farmers expand and diversify their agricultural ventures. They help marginal fisherfolks improve the quality of their boats and fishing equipment. They help small businesses grow and expand their markets. In short, OFWs really help a lot in building the nation.

Now, considering that OFWs all over the world constitute a major component in our country's socio-economic development, it has become imperative that a new and distinct executive department should be created in order to focus on their welfare development and assistance. The new department should focus on the OFWs and their families and galvanize all their financial and other strengths to optimize their own career growth and improvement of their quality of life, even as they continue to help build our nation, whether it is called Department of OFWs, as proposed by the migrant workers, or Department of Migration and Development.

The current system of deployment, welfare, protection, and development has been proven inadequate, disjointed, incoherent, and not expeditious. There are too many separate agencies that don’t belong to the same head office. POEA and OWWA belong to DOLE. OUMWA (Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Affairs) belongs to DFA. CFO (Commission of Filipino Overseas) belongs to the Office of the President. There are no mechanisms or processes to integrate all services for OFWs. Thus, the migrant workers end up unprotected in the manner the Labor Code, as well as the Migrant Workers Act, envisioned.

Thus, we submit that the latest presidential directive to create this department is indeed a great idea whose time has come. It will be our greatest mistake not to push this presidential directive into a concrete reality.

  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with