Press Release
March 2, 2011

As OFWs confront crises in host countries, Villar wants creation
of department for migrant Filipinos

Sen. Manny Villar today said government should seriously consider the creation of a separate department for migrant Filipinos to adequately address the needs of OFWs around the globe, especially during critical periods.

"The establishment of a Department of Migrant Filipinos would end the traditional finger-pointing among concerned agencies on repatriation and evacuation requirements of embattled OFWs," Villar stressed.

Last week, the foreign affairs and labor departments blamed each other for the delayed response in evacuating troubled OFWs in Libya.

"The establishment of a department solely dedicated to overseas Filipinos would simplify and harmonize efforts to look after them when there's a crisis and secure their welfare and rights during peace time," he said.

Villar said a department for overseas Filipinos becomes imperative and practical as the country grapples left and right with problems and issues involving OFWs around the globe especially due to the growing unrest in the Middle East region.

"After Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, now we have countrymen requiring rescue in Libya. We have to save the jobs of our workers in Taiwan over a deportation snafu of their nationals. In mainland China, we have Filipinos facing death while possible danger is also faced by trapped Filipinos in New Zealand quakes," he said.

"The DFA cannot attend to all this. The labor department also depends on DFA for inputs about OFWs. A separate department should be in order," Villar added.

The senator said as the world shifts and pro-democracy spreads like wildfires in host countries where OFWs thrive, "the government is walking the talk by honoring the multi-billion dollar contributions of Filipinos abroad through a dedicated department." "We call them heroes because of their billion dollar remittances keeping the economy afloat but we can't even dedicate a department for them?" he said.

Money sent home by OFWs stood at $18.8 billion last year, up 8.2 percent from the 2009 level.

The latest data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed that 16 percent or $2.964 billion of total remittances in 2010 came from OFWs in the Middle East, which is currently rocked by pro-democracy rallies in capital cities following the toppling of Egypt and Tunisia's despotic regimes.

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