The creation of the Department of Filipinos Overseas, certified as urgent by the administration, got support from senators and members of the Executive Department on Monday.
Senator Joel Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, said DOFil could be mandated to only look after OFWs worldwide, and consolidate the mandates of smaller government offices under the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
He said DOFil would ensure the welfare and needs of overseas Filipinos and migrant workers who experience hardships in other countries and from being away from their families.
Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri branded as “high time” the creation of DOFil. He authored Senate Bill 1323 or the bill creating DOFil to provide a more effective and efficient delivery of services to OFWs by streamlining all functions currently being carried out by various government agencies such as the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.
Zubiri said it saddens him that the government is not doing enough to protect OFWs.
“It’s not because our consulates and embassies are not doing enough, but there are simply more of our people out there than what our offices can handle,” he said.
Senator Christopher Go said this would benefit the 10 million OFWs.
Senator Imee Marcos said the creation of a separate department will be costly for the government. She recommended to come up with an Executive Order extending the authority of POEA.
Senator Win Gatchalian said while he supports the efforts of the government to help and protect overseas Filipino workers with DOFil, the main goal of the government should still be bringing migrant workers back and contributing to nation building.
“This proposal, in effect, signals to our countrymen that it is okay to go abroad because there is now a department that will handle all your problems. Isn’t this contradictory to our goal of creating more jobs domestically?” Gatchalian asked Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.
Nograles told Gatchalian DOFil is something that they need to do to ensure the welfare of OFWs. He noted that the bill provides for a mandatory review by Congress to determine if the existence of the department is still needed after 10 years.
“Yes, the policy of government maintains that while we are protecting Filipinos overseas, what we want them to do ultimately is to be productive domestically and that’s the reason why there is a mandatory review on the creation of this department,” Nograles said.
In backing DOFil, Senator Ronald Dela Rosa said it would minimize, if not totally eradicate, illegal recruiters preying on innocent overseas Filipino workers. “
Meanwhile, Senator Nancy Binay also said it was high time to stop Filipino domestic helpers from working abroad, considering that it is already being done in other countries. She also cited the fact that household workers are the most prone to abuse and trafficking.
She made this observation after Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola explained that the migration policy will be determined by DOFil.
“Is the policy to stop migration of Filipino domestic helpers being discussed now in the cabinet even before the passage of DOFil?” Binay asked, noting that the creation of a new department is being contemplated to address the issues of overseas Filipino workers.
Senator Francis Tolentino asked the DFA if it is willing to transfer some of its powers, when it comes to OFWs concerns, to the proposed DOFil.