Aksyon Demokratiko standard-bearer Francisco Isko Moreno Domagoso vowed Saturday that given the chance, he will seek stronger international trade agreements and institute national programs and policies to ensure the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“First, we must sign bilateral labor agreements, especially in Saudi Arabia, to protect our OFWs. And we must sign any other agreement also for undocumented Filipinos abroad to have the same benefits, at the very least health care system. I don’t want the situation to happen again with a domestic helper in Hong Kong, who had COVID and was thrown by her boss on the street. Sad, but it happened,” Moreno said. Rey E. Requejo
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), there was an estimated 1.77 million OFWs in 2020. However, only 1.71 million of these have existing work contracts. Other OFWs who worked abroad without working visa or work permits such as tourists, visitors, student, medical, and other types of non-immigrant visas but were presently employed and working full time in other countries accounted for 3.6 percent, or 63,810, of the total.
“I think we are in the right direction that it’s high time for us to enter into bilateral labor agreements with host countries that we do not have an agreement. And I think Saudi for that matter, it’s high time that there is nothing wrong with asking for what is right,” Moreno pointed out.
“What is the right thing to do? To provide protection in the eyes of the law, and other services, while our fellow Filipinos are working with them,” he said.
To further protect our OFWs, Moreno vowed to hire highly-qualified individuals at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Philippine embassies.
“We must put up good people, able, skilled, and those who are really knowledgeable in labor law officers in our POLO in our embassies,” Moreno said.
Moreno pointed to past practices where appointed POLO officers were not career officers. “It so happened that our POLO officer became a tourist. You seem to have no idea what to
do. Sad to say that is the general sentiment when I spoke with Middle East and some European OFWs,” he said.
“So we’ll make sure that we put somebody there representing the country in the embassy to really address the real situation and give attention, those who talk to OFWs,” said Moreno.
Moreno also vowed to institute programs for the reintegration of returning OFWs in the Philippine economy.
According to the Department of Labor and Employment, more than 800,000 OFWs returned to the country since the onset of the pandemic.
But more than protecting the OFWs or planning for their reintegration, Moreno has already unveiled plans to minimize the migration of our workers abroad by providing the much-needed jobs here in the country.