Solon seeks creation of Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW)

A lawmaker is seeking the creation of a Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW) that will cater to the special needs of OFWs and streamline the diversified government agencies for them to serve the greater good for overseas Filipinos.

Rep. Mark Villar (Lone District, Las Piñas City), author of House Bill 6637 seeking the DOFW creation, said the government must not only pay lip service to OFWs because of the significant value they bring to the economy and the specialized problems they face abroad.

“The Philippines is one of the nations whose investment in the global market is labor force. In fact, we can claim there isn’t a single country without a Filipino. Our OFWs, the Philippines migrant labor force, have been the consistent dollar earner for the country,” said Villar.

In 2009 alone, he said the OFWs brought in at least $17.3 billion to the local economy as reported by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. This is equivalent to some 11% to 12% of the country’s gross domestic product. “The remittances made by OFWs have helped in stabilizing the economic situation of the country despite global recessions and economic downturn,” said Villar.

Villar, a Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Labor and Employment, said the continuous increase of OFWs triggered the enactment of Executive Order 797 creating the POEA, which aims to develop employment opportunities, protect workers and promote industrial peace.

Likewise, he said to ensure the welfare of Filipinos abroad, Republic Act 8042, otherwise known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995, was enacted to uphold the dignity of Filipino citizens and protect their rights even when they are outside the country.

Undeniably, however, he said there have been various confusions as to which of the government agencies should act on some queries of OFWs.

“Instead of giving them ease and comfort, problems have arisen in terms of their employment, insurance, benefits, and so on, because of red tape and the ensuing confusion as to which agency has jurisdiction,” said Villar.

To address this problem and make the situation better for Filipinos abroad, Villar said he filed HB 6637 which seeks to unify and streamline the diversified government agencies for them to serve the greater good for overseas Filipinos.

He said the measure is consistent with the fundamental precept found under Section 3, Article XIII of the 1987 Constitution “To afford full protection to labor, local and overseas, organized and unorganized, and promote full employment and equality of employment opportunities for all.”

The bill provides for the creation of a Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW) which shall, among others, recommend and implement the government’s policies, programs for the promotion of protection, safety, development, support, deployment and repatriation of OFWs, and deal with other hazards while working abroad. The DOFW shall be the primary agency tasked with the enforcement of the rights of OFWs as provided in RA 8042, as amended.

The DOFW shall be headed by a Secretary to be appointed by the President of the Republic of the Philippines with confirmation of the Commission of Appointments. The Secretary shall be assisted by three Undersecretaries who shall also be appointed by the President.

The bill provides for the transfer to the DOFW of the following bureau and agencies from their respective departments: Office of Migrant Workers Affairs (Department of Foreign Affairs); Commission on Filipino Overseas (Office of the President); and All Philippine overseas labor offices (Department of Labor and Employment). Meanwhile, the POEA and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) shall be attached to the DOFW and continue to function based on the charters, laws or orders that created them.

In terms of appropriation, the bill provides that the amount needed for the initial implementation of the Act shall be taken from the current fiscal year’s appropriation of the transferred agencies to the DOFW. For the next fiscal year following the approval of the proposed Act, the appropriation for the DOFW shall not be lower than P5 billion, of which P1 billion shall be allotted to the OFW Assistance Fund for OFWs in distress, both documented and undocumented. The P1 billion OFW Assistance Fund shall be used for repatriation, legal assistance, payment of blood money, if necessary, and basic necessities of OFWs caught in emergencies or are detained.

Solon seeks creation of Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW)

A lawmaker is seeking the creation of a Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW) that will cater to the special needs of OFWs and streamline the di

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