Since there is only one Social Welfare Attaché for every 623,561 overseas Filipinos—the smallest employee-to-clientele ratio in public service today—Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the government should consider SWAs as “priority hires.”
Recto said there were only seven SWAs worldwide, who served a constituency of 4.365 million OFWs.
If five more will be deployed this year, he said the SWA-to-OFW ratio would increase to about 1 to 364,000.
“Imagine having 1 doctor or dentist for this number of people.”
Recto is batting for the accelerated hiring of more SWAs following President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of Republic Act 11299, which creates the Office of the SWA in diplomatic posts where there is a large concentration of Filipino contract workers.
He urged the Department of Social Welfare and Development, which oversees the SWAs, to include in its 2020 budget request funds for the creation of more SWA items.
He also asked the DSWD “to widen the recruitment for Social Welfare Attachés to include OFWs living in the countries where they will be deployed for as long as they meet the criteria for hiring and pass the qualifying exams.”
“Instead of parachuting someone from Manila to an alien territory, why not get someone who has long been on the ground, speaks the language, knows the culture, is familiar with the terrain to be navigated, and who is or was an OFW himself ?” he said.
And for SWAs to effectively function as first responders to Filipinos in distress, a support staff is a must, and this must also be included in next year’s appropriations, Recto said.
He said the current funding of P90 million for the pay and operational expenses of all SWAs is insufficient “if taken against the backdrop of attended cases and the amount of money OFWs are remitting home.”
He noted that last year SWAs remitted P1.5 trillion.
The other factor is the “perennially high number of Filipinos in distress” who need to be repatriated, cared for, counseled, rescued, and shown acts of compassion - all of which have stretched the limited resources of our understaffed foreign posts, Recto said.