In a phone-patched interview, over the weekend, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go explained the need to establish a new executive department that will focus on the needs and concerns of Overseas Filipinos particularly Filipino migrant workers or OFWs.
Go said that the functions of government agencies must be streamlined in order to provide fast, accessible and quality services to the Filipinos working or based abroad and to aid their families here in the Philippines.
“We need to streamline the functions of government agencies to provide (fast) services. Huwag natin sila ipasa-pasa sa iba’t ibang ahensya. Kung lalapitan nila ang Department of OFWs, ito na po ang makikipag-coordinate sa lahat ng ahensiya ng gobyerno para matulungan sila,” Go said.
Go added that President Duterte plans to certify as urgent the creation of the Department of OFWs so that Congress can act swiftly on the passage of the proposed measure.
Go noted that President Duterte would like to put an end to manpower agencies that demand excessive fees from Filipinos seeking jobs abroad and to protect Filipino migrant workers from abusive illegal recruiters. This will be one of the primary functions of the department of OFWs once it is established.
“Gusto pong iwasan ni Pangulong Duterte itong nangyayaring illegal recruitment. Marami pong nagiging biktima nito. Humihingi ng saklolo, gustong umuwi. Itong magiging bagong departamento na lang po na ito ang lalapitan nila,” Go said.
In line with this, one of Go’s first legislative measures filed on July 02 is Senate Bill 202 or the Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2019.
Senate Bill 202 seeks to address these issues, such as the need to improve coordination among concerned offices, hence the proposal to put them together under one roof to avoid finger-pointing among agencies concerned with OFW affairs.
The Bill proposes that the following agencies and their powers and functions, funds and appropriations, records, equipment, property, and personnel will be transferred to the new Department to be established: (1) Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA); (2) Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA); (3) Commission on Filipino Overseas (CFO); (4) International Labor Affairs Bureau of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and (5) National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO).
The powers and functions of the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs under the Department of Foreign Affairs and all Philippine Overseas Labor Offices and their officials under the DOLE will also be transferred to this new Department as stated in the proposed law.
“Itong Department of OFWs primarily para sa mga OFWs na lang talaga natin. Kasi alam niyo po, minsan kung saan-saan sila humihingi ng tulong at ng advice. Hindi nila alam kung saan sila pupunta,” he added.
Go also assured the OFWs that they will not pay anything in excess in able to avail the services of the proposed department once it is done. He, likewise, said that he and President Duterte would push for the passage of the law and the completion of the creation of the Department of OFWs by December.
“We will make sure na hindi po (dagdag na) gagastos ang ating OFWs sa gagawing bagong departamento. Nag-usap na rin kami ni Pangulo that he will certify it as urgent. Sabi niya kung maari by December maisagawa na ito,” he added.
Aside from the new department, Go said that President Duterte would also build hospitals specifically for Filipino migrant workers. The President is also eyeing to provide more livelihood assistance and trainings to migrant workers and those who wish to go back to the country as part of government’s reintegration program, the Senator shared.