How do mayors and governors support families of OFWS?
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus Jimenez (The Freeman) - August 16, 2019 - 12:00am

Mayors and governors cannot and should not remain impervious to the realities that today there are no less than 12 million OFWs and other Filipino migrants working in no less than 200 countries all over the world.

There is no city, municipality, or province in the whole country without an OFW family. In Cebu City alone, no less than 300,000 to 400,000 families reside whose fathers, mothers, sons, or daughters are working abroad as Filipino migrant workers. The question is: What is the program of the city that addresses the many issues, needs, and problems concerning OFWs and their families? How does the city government protect its residents from the malpractices of illegal recruiters and traffickers of persons? How do they assist families of missing OFWs? Do we have a working coordination with DOLE, DFA, POEA, OWWA, and the Labor attachés? I seriously doubt that.

Whether the plan to create a separate department for OFWs will push through or not, the local government units should not remain blind and deaf to the sad plight of migrant workers. After all, these people are the constituents of the provinces, cities, and municipalities. According to Senator Cynthia Villar, who submitted a bill creating a Department of Migration and Development, the OFWs remit more than $32 billion each year through the formal channels, and even more, no less than $38 billion dollars by personal remittances or through informal “padala” by vacationing fellow OFWs who are relatives or friends. Thus, OFWs do contribute substantially to the socio-economic development of the provinces, cities, and municipalities.

Having laid down the above premises, I submit that it is the duty of every local government unit chief executive to create concrete programs and projects designed to help the OFWs and their families. For instance, all LGUs should install mechanisms that prevent illegal recruiters and traffickers of women and children from plying their nefarious trades within their respective localities. Also, the governors and the mayors should install an effective coordination mechanism at the LGU levels for families of victims of labor law violations abroad to follow up the repatriation of sick, disabled, or deceased migrant workers.

This was done by Mayor Oca Moreno of Cagayan de Oro when he was a member of Congress, and some of his constituents were victimized by a syndicate in Malaysia. I was the Labor attaché deployed to Kuala Lumpur and I did help and facilitate embassy assistance to the victims. Then Congressman Oca was very happy with our immediate and accurate assistance. He then institutionalized such coordination mechanisms to help all OFWs in Misamis Oriental. I also helped then Governor Junjun Davide take care of our OFWs when I was in Taiwan.

It is time for local government executives to give attention to a major component of our society, the OFWs and their families. They help in our socio-economic development tremendously. In their times of crisis and extreme difficulties, mayors and governors should help. As a former DOLE undersecretary and Labor attaché, I am willing to help LGUs in putting up the systems and the structures for this new program, and to train those who shall deliver the services to the OFWs and their loved ones.

The 12 million OFWs in 200 countries can no longer be ignored. Mayors and governors should have specific programs and projects to help them. This is a noble initiative that should commence immediately.

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