Villanueva: 24/7 global emergency helpline a key feature of DMWOF bill
One of the urgent mandates of the proposed Department of Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos (DMWOF) is the establishment of a “global 911” system, which Filipinos in need of help abroad can access “anytime, anywhere,” Senator Joel Villanueva said.
“A 24/7 global emergency helpline for distressed Filipinos abroad that would do more than just offer recorded messages or Q & As, should be established to deliver real help,” the senator said.
“Putting up and maintaining this toll-free helpline, this call center, is one of the duties of the proposed department,” he said during the floor debates on the bill creating an agency dedicated to the welfare of an estimated 10 million overseas Filipinos.
He said it will be an irony if a country known as the “call center capital” of the world will not be able to host one for its own people.
During the floor debates on Senate Bill No. 2234 or the DMWOF bill, sponsored by Villanueva as chair of the Senate labor committee, one of the problems raised by OFWs is the delayed responses in cases of emergencies.
These include unlawful confiscation of passports, non-compliant terms of contract, illegal termination of contracts, abuse and gender-based violence, and trafficking, among others, Villanueva recalled, citing the various public consultations he organized for the bill.
“A 24/7 global emergency helpline for distressed Filipinos abroad that would do more than just offer recorded messages or Q & As, should be established to deliver real help.”
To guarantee its widest reach, Villanueva said the OFW helpline should be on multiple platforms, “phone, text message, email, or even social media platforms such as Facebook and Messenger.”
Villanueva said the new department will not be starting from scratch in terms of budgetary concerns for warm bodies on the other end of the line as DOLE and DFA each have existing call centers, these will be consolidated and upgraded.
“Bagama’t marami ng AI – or artificial intelligence-assisted – na assistance systems ngayon, mas maganda pa rin po makarinig ng friendly voice on the other end of the line,” he added.
One of the mandates of the DMWOF is to establish a 24/7 Emergency Response and Action Center Unit and media and social media monitoring center to respond to the emergency needs of Filipinos abroad and their families.
According to Sec. 6 of the bill, the DMWOF shall “establish a 24/7 Emergency Response and Action Center Unit and media and social media monitoring center to respond to the emergency needs of OFWs and other OFs and their families.”