Press Release
July 14, 2016

Villar pushes for the creation of a department for OFWs

Sen. Cynthia Villar pushed for the creation of a dedicated department to look after the affairs of 12 million Filipinos overseas.

Senate Bill No. 146 or the "Department of Migration and Development Act of 2016," seeks to create a department that will recommend and implement the government's policies, plans and programs for the promotion of protection, safety, development, support, of and for Filipinos overseas and their families left behind.

"It is timely and appropriate to create a government agency in the executive department, which shall have the exclusive function of protecting and enforcing the welfare and rights of Filipinos overseas. We need an empowered agency that will adequately support and give assistance to them," Villar said.

Villar noted that despite the presence of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration (OWWA), even taking into account the assistance provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), many of our Filipino overseas see that they are being neglected by government.

"There are reports of numerous complaints and resentment towards government harbored by overseas Filipino workers apparently brought about by the government's delayed and inadequate support and assistance while they are facing difficult predicaments abroad," she said.

Among others, the Department of Migration and Development shall develop, implement and improve coordination with other countries with the presence of Filipinos and monitor foreign developments to ensure the most reasonable working conditions for the OFWs and create a proactive approach in providing assistance to them especially in times of war and civil unrest, whether potential or apparent.

It will also promote, develop and monitor the continuing education, training and qualification, availability and deployment of OFWs and coordinate with concerned agencies in the training of overseas Filipinos to improve their competitiveness globally.

Under the bill, POEA and OWWA will be attached to the department for policy and program coordination. Once enacted into law, the following bureaus, offices and agencies will be transferred from their respective departments to the newly created department:

a) International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB), including all Philippine Overseas Labor Offices, with direct supervision over Labor Attaches and Welfare Officers and the Filipino Workers Resource Centers

b) Overseas Absentee Voting Secretariat (Department of Foreign Affairs)

c) Commission on Filipinos Overseas (Office of the President)

d) National Reintegration Center for OFWs (OWWA)

e) Repatriation Unit (POEA)/ Repatriation Assistance Division (OWWA)

f) Conciliation Unit (POEA)

g) Anti-Illegal Recruitment Branch (POEA)

h) Workers Education Division (POEA)

i) PDOS unit (OWWA)

j) Government Placement Branch (POEA)

k) Adjudication Office (POEA)

l) Overseas Operations Coordination Service - 24/7 hotline (OWWA)

m) Social Service Office (Department of Social Welfare and Development)

n) Pertinent offices of MARINA in relation to the training, certification, and setting and monitoring of standards concerning international seafarers (Department of Transportation and Communications)

The bill also seeks to create the P1-billion Special Assistance Revolving Fund for Filipino Migrants, including both documented and undocumented. It will be used for emergency repatriation; medical expenses; immigration penalties; legal assistance; payment of blood money; humanitarian assistance to families left behind; scholarships for children of Filipinos overseas; maintenance and operational expenses including capital outlay for the establishment of One-Stop Migrant Processing and Assistance Centers.

Citing Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas records, the Nacionalista Party senator said OFWs' remittances, which amounts to $25.76 billion sent thru formal channels and $28.5 billion personal remittances are considered significant contributors to the country's gross domestic product that keep the Philippine economy buoyant.

The bill also seeks to create an inter-agency coordinating Council on Migration and Development, which shall be composed of the Secretaries of the Department of Migration and Development, DFA, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Justice, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Department of Interior and Local Governments. Under the purview of the council are death row cases involving blood money, terrorism, drug-trafficking, human trafficking as well as large-scale illegal recruitment cases involving Filipino workers, and urgent cases involving overseas or their families left behind that require humanitarian assistance with appropriate recommendations for the consideration of the Office of the President.

The bill also seeks to mandate the establishment of One-Stop Migrant Assistance Centers in all major capital towns and cities nationwide to ensure prompt, efficient, vital and relevant services to migrant Filipinos and their families to include passport and authentication services, acquisition of government clearances and permits, validation of overseas job offers, reintegration services and all pertinent seminars and workshops for all stakeholders.

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