SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The joint meeting today of the House Committees on Government Reorganization and Overseas Workers Affairs tackled several measures for the creation of the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers and Foreign Employment (“DOFW”), including House Bill No. 2 authored by Speaker Alan Peter “Compañero” Cayetano, Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte, and Rep. Maria Laarni "Lani" Cayetano, pursuant to the directive of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to sign the bill into law by December 2019.
During the joint meeting, Speaker Cayetano said the absence of a single agency to address foreign employment concerns has made it difficult for government to focus on the needs and demands of migration in general and of OFWs in particular. “Oftentimes, help is delayed because the OFWs and the next kin are confused which agency to approach and sometimes there is a conflict or overlapping jurisdiction,” said the Speaker.
He added that there are instances when there is a conflict of policy pronouncements and handling of cases between the agencies: “Hence, there is a pressing need to have a one-stop shop for OFWs to make life more comfortable for them. There is an urgency to prioritize the creation of an agency that would manage, harmonize, and strengthen existing policies and programs on migration to address the needs of OFWs.”
One of the resource persons present was Jennifer Daprosa of the Learning Support Teachers and Chairperson of GMAC Hong Kong. She said the creation of the DOFW is long overdue and it will surely benefit all OFWs and the families they leave behind. She said, “The creation of the DOFW will streamline and hasten government services, eliminate or minimize corruption if it’s still there; ensure each individual’s rights to be treated with dignity and afforded just compensation once employed; and encourage OFWs to seek support and avail of the government programs the department can offer.”
Warpeace Martinez Arnold, a businesswoman based in Dubai and head of the OFW-Gobal Management Association and Cooperation said the DOFW will provide hope to OFWs. “We have to support this. Ito ang pag-asa nating mga OFWs. Kung hindi natin umpisahan ang pagtayo ng bahay (DOFW) ngayon, kailan pa? Sana by December ma-approve na itong DOFW,” she said.
Meanwhile, Speaker Cayetano stressed that the creation of the DOFW will not perpetuate OFWs. He clarified, “May I just put that on the record that there is no intention, whatsoever at least from this representation on my version of the bill to perpetuate the policy or to make it a policy of sending Filipinos abroad.” The Speaker added that the creation of the DOFW is a practical recognition given the lack of jobs creation at present in the Philippines. He proposed the inclusion of “sunset provisions” to later on ensure Filipinos remain in the country.
OFW remittances are significant. In 2018, their personal remittances accounted for 9.7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) while their cash remittances amounted to US$28.94 billion.