SENATOR Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go led the groundbreaking ceremony of the country’s first overseas Filipino workers (OFW) Hospital on Tuesday at San Fernando City, Pampanga where he reaffirmed his commitment to push for the passage of a bill mandating the creation of an executive department focusing on the needs and concerns of overseas Filipinos.
In his speech, Go said a significant part of his legislative agenda is to push for the establishment of the Department of Overseas Filipinos, which is one of the requests of many overseas Filipino workers he met.
“Masakit makitang iniiwan ng mga kababayan natin ang mga pamilya at mahal nila sa buhay upang makapagtrabaho lamang sa mga malalayong lugar. Suklian natin ang kanilang sakripisyo ng mas maayos na serbisyo para sa kanila at kanilang mga pamilya,” Go said.
According to the senator, the proposed department seeks “to streamline the services provided for the OFWs and to make the several processes they undergo more efficient and convenient.”
“Sa tulong nitong proposed department na ito, isang lugar na lang po ang pupuntahan nila. Mula sa paghahanap ng trabaho sa ibang bansa hanggang sa pagpoproseso ng mga dokumento at pagrereklamo sa mga employers, diretso na po sila sa iisang tanggapan lang,” he added.
Go filed in July of last year Senate Bill (SB) No. 202 or the Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2019. The measure seeks to address issues, such as the need to improve coordination among concerned offices, hence the proposal to put them together under one roof to avoid finger-pointing among agencies concerned with overseas Filipinos and OFW affairs.
If passed into law, the following agencies and their powers and functions, funds and appropriations, records, equipment, property, and personnel will be transferred to the new department to be established: (1) Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA); (2) Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA); (3) Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO); (4) International Labor Affairs Bureau of the Department of Labor and Employment (ILAB-DOLE) and (5) National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO).
The powers and functions of the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) under the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and all Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) and their officials under DOLE will also be transferred to the new department as stated in the proposed law.
“Sa ngayon po kasi, kung may kailangan ang ating mga OFWs sa gobyerno, kailangan pa po nilang magpalipat-lipat sa iba’t ibang ahensya para makakuha lang ng serbisyo. Bukod sa nakakapagod na, nakaka-aksaya pa ng oras at pera,” Go said, lamenting the present laborious process OFWs and other overseas Filipinos have to go through just to avail of government services.
The senator added that the bill will help curb the proliferation of illegal recruiters who usually victimize Filipinos wishing to work abroad for better job opportunities. It will also provide for the creation of the Overseas Filipinos Assistance Fund for migrant workers in distress, inclusive of repatriation and provisions for life savings funds in times of emergencies.
“Magbibigay din po ito ng tulong para sa training, pati na rin ng livelihood loans para sa mga OFWs natin na nais nang bumalik ng Pilipinas for good,” Go said about the measure, adding that the creation of the department will designate police attachés in countries with overseas Filipinos to assist them in times of need.
During the event, Go met Nancy Mallari Valencia, a 34-year-old undocumented domestic helper in Lebanon who was repatriated through the help of the senator. Aside from the help already rendered by Go, he also promised to provide Valencia with other kinds of assistance to help her start anew now that she is back in the country.
Go also shared during the ceremony about the institutionalization of Malasakit Centers all over the country as one of his advocacies to ensure that overseas Filipinos and their families at home are provided with swift access to government medical and financial services.
“Alam ko rin po na napakaraming mga OFWs ang nag-aalala sa kanilang mga pamilya rito sa Pilipinas, lalo na kapag nagkakasakit ang mga ito. Kaya naman po malaking parte rin ng aking adbokasiya ay ang pagpapaganda ng ating health care system, kabilang na ang pagtatayo at pag-institutionalize ng mga Malasakit Centers sa buong bansa,” the Senator said.
Go thanked all the government agencies and organizations responsible for the planned establishment of the first OFW Hospital in the country.
“It is a joy to be able to work with so many people who are putting their hearts into improving the protection and welfare of our modern-day heroes,” Go said.
He added that he believes the project will go a long way towards helping Filipino migrant workers, saying “With over ten million OFWs worldwide, I believe that this project will go a long way towards improving the welfare of our migrant workers and their families.”