The Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development chaired by Senator Joel Villanueva tackled on Wednesday Senate Bill No. 146 or the bill creating the Department of Migration and Development.
The said measure was discussed along with three other similar measures filed by Senators Ralph Recto, Senate President Koko Pimentel, and former Senator and now DFA Secretary Alan Cayetano.
The hearing was a continuation of the previous discussion of the labor committee last January wherein Villanueva stated the importance of creating a separate department for overseas Filipino workers to address: 1) the need to enhance coordination of all offices working for OFWs by putting them together under one roof and to put an end to the practice of finger-pointing among agencies concerned with OFW affairs; 2) the need to extend adequate legal assistance for OFWs in distress; and 3) the need to provide a full migration cycle approach in promoting migrant’s rights from pre-employment, onsite and reintegration services.
The senator said the hearing comes at an opportune time when President Rodrigo Duterte himself recognized the necessity of creating a separate department which will be in-charged with the concerns of Filipinos living and working abroad when he visited our kababayans in Doha, Qatar last April.
“During the break, this June, I also had the chance to visit Filipino communities in the UK and Italy and the more I personally felt how badly we need to help our OFWs and improve government services for them,” Villanueva shared.
However, the senator further emphasized that the bill does not intend to contribute to the expansion of our country’s labor export but to afford our overseas workers the services they deserve and the protection of their rights as migrant workers.
“This is not sending the wrong signal that we are trying to encourage Filipinos to work abroad because of greener pastures. We are all aware of the fact that there are more job opportunities abroad but it should never be our policy,” Villanueva said.
"Gusto po natin na mas maraming Pilipino ang magkaroon ng disenteng trabaho dito sa bansa, kasama ang kanilang pamilya. Sino po ba ang may ayaw nito? Subalit nandito na po tayo, kailangang-kailangan nating tugunan ngayon ang pangangailangan ng ating OFWs sa pamamagitan ng paglikha ng isang bahay, isang ahensya para sa ating mga Bagong Bayani," Villanueva added.
For the last 40 years, the deployment of Filipino workers has risen exponentially especially now that the transnational movements of people in search of greener pastures and employment opportunities in other countries seems unavoidable.
At present, there are 10 million OFWs which comprise 10 percent of our country’s overall population.
Based on the data presented by Ms. Susan “Toots” Ople, founder and president of Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, there are 247 million international migrants around the world. Five percent of which are Filipinos.
Moreover, the Philippines is no. 7 in the world in terms of population of international migrants, no. 3 in terms of receiving remittances, and no. 1 in labor exportation in the ASEAN region.
Citing the sentiments of the resource persons, Villanueva said “it is hard not to be convinced” that the country needs a separate department that would specifically cater to the concerns of our migrant workers.
In the hearing, several representatives of OFW groups expressed their disappointment on the government’s delayed and inadequate support and assistance to OFWs due to the compartmentalization of offices or agencies working for OFW affairs.
“Again, the establishment of a Department of Migration or Department of OFWs is not to push our kababayan into jobs abroad but to ensure that while the number of OFWs remains unabated and while they are overseas working to give their families and loved ones better lives here in the Philippines, we have one government agency who pays attention to them and takes care of all their needs,” the senator said.