SENATOR Alan Peter Cayetano has filed a bill creating a one-stop-shop umbrella agency that will provide full protection to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families.
Senate Bill 1435 if approved will establish a Department of Foreign Employment (DOFE), which will serve as a channel to address all issues and grievances of the country's OFWs including the promotion of their employment and the mitigation of social costs back home.
The senator's initiative came weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte announced during his state visit in Saudi Arabia that a department for OFWs is now in the works, but jurisdiction on its creation lies with Congress.
Cayetano pointed out that each year, around two million Filipinos are driven to leave the country due to poverty and joblessness at home. Most of these migrant workers, he lamented, are forced to endure oppressive work conditions at the hands of abusive employers or illegal recruiters.
"Despite the existence of agencies to protect them, OFWs and their families continue to face numerous problems and challenges such as illegal recruitment; employer abuse; inadequate benefits; inefficient and ineffective delivery of services; and the lack of representation in the agencies that are supposed to protect and promote their rights," he said.
Cayetano said there is a pressing need to prioritize the creation of an agency that would manage, harmonize, and strengthen existing policies and programs to address the needs of overseas Filipino employment.
The proposed department will be headed by a person with a rank of Cabinet Secretary and shall be the primary policy, programming, coordinating, and administrative entity of the executive branch, providing assistance to OFWs in the field of overseas labor and employment.
The measure also proposes to create a P1billion OFW Distress and Assistance Fund to provide financial support for OFWs in distress including repatriation and provisions for life-saving funds in times of great emergency -- a well as training and livelihood loans for returning OFWs. (SunStar Philippines)