Villanueva: Proposed Dept of Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos to address plight of migrant workers, overseas Filipinos
As coordination between agencies servicing millions of Filipinos overseas remain a tall order, the proposed Department of Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos (DMWOF) hopes to optimize government service to Filipinos abroad, according to Senator Joel Villanueva.
Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, sponsored to the plenary Senate Bill No. 2234, which seeks to establish the DMWOF, to address the needs of over 10 million Filipinos around the world.
“The structure of the DMWOF should meet the needs for navigating a world full of challenges to overseas Filipino workers, such as the post-pandemic world. Given the proper orientation and mandate, it will be instrumental to the transition towards a strategic post-COVID-19 Philippine economy,” he said.
“The world will have changed when this department gets operational, and the last thing we need is a new bureaucratic accessory. What we should have is an agency that is a toolkit for the future,” he continued.
Citing government data, Villanueva said that about 6,092 Pinoys leave the country every day to work abroad before the COVID-19 pandemic. “Five percent (5%) of all labor migrants globally are Filipinos; we are ranked number 7 worldwide. In-demand po ang mga Pilipino abroad,” Villanueva said.
“Despite their contributions to our economy and the love and respect they get from other countries and nationalities, problems continue to plague our overseas Filipinos, especially OFWs. While there are metrics for the economic returns of migration, there is none for its social costs. And the sad truth is that OFWs risk their limbs and lives abroad because of a lack of employment opportunities at home,” he said.
“The structure of the DMWOF should meet the needs for navigating a world full of challenges to overseas Filipino workers, such as the post-pandemic world. Given the proper orientation and mandate, it will be instrumental to the transition towards a strategic post-COVID-19 Philippine economy.”
Villanueva pointed out that the bill included a provision mandating a review of the department 10 years after its creation, reiterating that the “policy of the State to not promote overseas employment as means to sustain economic growth and to achieve national development.”
“We are optimistic that there will be no more need for this department in the future that we included a sunset provision. We believe that ten years is a reasonable amount of time to evaluate the need to overhaul or abolish the DMWOF should circumstances prove that its existence is no longer necessary,” he said.
The proposed bill merges the following government offices: the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency, National Reintegration Center for OFWs, Philippine Overseas Labor Offices, some functions of the International Labor Affairs Bureau, National Maritime Polytechnic;
Also transferred to the DMWOF are the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs of the foreign affairs department, and the International Social Services Office of the social welfare department.
The bill also proposes to move the Commission on Filipinos Overseas from the Office of the President to the DMWOF.
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, meanwhile, is deemed an attached agency.
“It’s not intentional that these offices and agencies are dispersed across departments, Mr. President. This is also a result of long experience with migration that has created policies, processes and institutions that were expected to flourish under a collaborative governance regime,” Villanueva said.