Villanueva: Proposed department for migrant workers, overseas Filipinos seeks to cure 6Rs hounding OFWs
The proposed department for migrant workers and overseas Filipinos must be given enough manpower and resources so it could address the “six Rs” Filipinos who have left their homeland to work have to grapple with.
He identified these as “red tape, recruitment, regulation, response to emergencies, repatriation, and reintegration” in his speech sponsoring Senate Bill No. 2234 which establishes the Department of Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos (DMWOF) on Tuesday afternoon.
“These are the usual problem areas that the new department must focus on. If you categorize the sad stories of OFWs into chapters, most will fall in one of the six Rs, but some in all of the six,” Villanueva said.
He said even “members of the Filipino Diaspora whose tales have happy endings” have had to contend with one of the six Rs.
The “6 Rs” is the price overseas Filipinos have to pay so their families and the nation can benefit from “the seventh R, which is remittances.”
Overcoming the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic, OFWs still managed to send home $33.2 billion last year, equivalent to one-third of the present P4.506 trillion national budget.
Villanueva said while remittances can be dutifully counted, “there are no metrics for the economic returns of migration, none for its social costs.”
The senator is banking on the DMWOF to address the “6 Rs” because relief from these problem areas “is what we owe Filipinos who have no choice but to work abroad for lack of opportunities at home.”
“These are the usual problem areas that the new department must focus on. If you categorize the sad stories of OFWs into chapters, most will fall in one of the six Rs, but some in all of the six.”
The creation of the DMWOF, he stressed, “is not meant to institutionalize a labor export policy, because no country should be dispatching its best and brightest to serve in alien lands.”
“It is not our intention to push for Filipinos leaving their country, home and family just to work abroad. It is our goal to provide our fellow Filipinos with the necessary and adequate support they need in overcoming the difficult predicaments they encounter overseas; not of their own choice, but as brought about by what has become unavoidable desperate necessity,” Villanueva said.
With these challenges at hand, the senator said, the state through the DMWOF has no choice but “serve and protect” those who have chosen this path of earning a living so their family can survive.
Top of the to-do-list is purging recruitment with anomalies, he said. “Marami po sa ating mga kababayan ang patuloy na nabibiktima ng illegal recruitment at human trafficking na isang uri ng modern-day slavery.”
Red tape, Villanueva said, is another unique OFW experience.
“Hanggang ngayon, reklamo pa rin po ng ating mga balikbayan ang mahabang proseso na ipinatutupad ng mga ahensyang naglalabas ng mga dokumento. Ang nalalabing oras sa bakasyon, nauubos po sa pagpila sa iba’t ibang mga opisina,” he continued.
He tagged “regulation as red tape’s twin, with turfing and politics, transforming otherwise good OFW policies, into an incoherent set of rules that penalizes the OFW.”
The next two Rs, Villanueva cited, deal with government response to Filipinos in distress abroad and those who require repatriation mostly due to sickness, abuse, calamities or death.
“As of July 2019, there are at least 14,532 Filipinos reportedly languishing in jails abroad. 68 of them are serving life sentences. Add to them the countless OFWs facing legal, health, psychosocial, and financial quandaries,” Villanueva said.
According to him one of the biggest unmet needs of OFWs is “reintegration, the important post-work assistance they deserve.”
“They are not machinery to be mothballed but unselfish people who have done so much for us and can still do so much for society with the wealth of knowledge they are bringing home. Sa skills training, job referral, financial advice, mapapakinabangan po ang experience at expertise na baon nilang pauwi,” he said.