Duterte promises creation of OFW department soon

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President Rodrigo Duterte (Photo from KR Guda/Pinoy Weekly)

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has announced his plan to establish a dedicated department that will address the concerns of overseas Filipino workers.

Duterte first announced his plan in a recent visit to Bahrain. “You will have, in a few months, a Department for OFWs only,” the President said.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, however, raised concerns over the plan, which he said is a departure from the administration’s bid to bring home OFWs for good by providing them decent jobs.

Bello said there are already two agencies mandated by law “to take care of the welfare, especially the protection of our OFWs while they are abroad,” namely the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

“The President is very conscious of the social implication of our countrymen and countrywomen going abroad to look for jobs, and so he would like to create more jobs in our country so that there will be no necessity for our countrymen to go abroad,” he said.

“(This proposal) might institutionalize the relevance of our OFWs, which goes against the final aim of the government to get them back,” Bello added.

Duterte acknowledged that the proposal will need the approval of Congress first.

The House of Representatives earlier consolidated six bills proposing the creation of a Department for Overseas Filipino Workers.

The six proposals were filed by Deputy Speaker Eric Singson; fugitive 1-PACMAN Party-list Rep. Michael Romero; Pangasinan Rep. Rose Marie Arenas; Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap ; Las Piñas Rep. Mark Villar and Tarlac Rep. Carlos Cojuangco.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines welcomed Duterte’s plan, saying it would definitely help millions of OFWs, particularly those in distress.

“We support the creation of department for OFW so that their specific needs will be properly attended to; their basic interests will  be solely safeguarded and their personal rights and privileges will be promoted and preserved,” CBCP -Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People chairman Bishop Ruperto Santos said.

“The POEA and OWWA will be under the watch of this new Department for OFW, so that common and united efforts for the welfare and well-being of our OFWs will be rightly and justly addressed,” the CBCP official added.

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