Speaker wants integrated, Comprehensive plan for OFWs

Alan Peter Cayetano

SPEAKER Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday urged the Department of Foreign  Affairs (DFA) and Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) to convene  an inter-agency meeting to discuss how their respective programs can  be integrated to respond to issues and concerns affecting overseas  Filipino workers (OFWs) abroad and those who are returning to the country.

During Tuesday’s hybrid briefing of the House committee on public  accounts chaired by Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor on the  whole-of-government approach in its migration policy response to the  coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Cayetano cited the need to submit an “integrated and comprehensive plan” for OFWs.

To ensure that the needs of the OFW programs are sustained amid the  battle against COVID-19, Cayetano asked the DFA, DoLE, and other  OFW-related agencies to submit their funding requirements that can be  funded either under the Bayanihan to Recover as One (Bayanihan II) or  the 2021 National Budget.

The House Leader pointed out that there is a need for the OFW-related  agencies to convene an inter-agency meeting to determine the missing  elements or the weakest links in the system.

He said returning OFWs often experience being pointed to one agency after the other for their documentation, training, funding, and educational needs.

Cayetano recalled that during his stint as Foreign Affairs Secretary,  an inter-agency working group was formed to identify existing programs  across different government agencies and discuss areas of cooperation  and integration.

“It requires full coordination and adoption of a whole-of-government  approach,” he said.

Cayetano recommended that the chairmen of the House committees on  labor and on overseas workers affairs be included in the proposed  inter-agency meeting.

“We need to work together to survive the crisis and execute a united  response to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

Cayetano had earlier proposed that the agencies should focus on 5Rs –  relief, repatriation, recovery, return and reintegration.

Under the 5Rs, the DOLE provides relief to returning OFWs while the  DFA works for their repatriation.

Assistance from agencies such as the Technical Education and Skills  Development Authority (TESDA), Cooperative Development Authority  (CDA), Department of Science and Technology (DoST), and financial  institutions will be needed for their recovery and reintegration.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr), meanwhile, assists the OFWs  in their return.

“I do believe that andaming programa ng gobyerno, pero hindi alam ng  mga OFW at ng kanilang pamilya i-access ‘to, at kung ma-aaccess man  ito, minsan, the red tape that still exists causes delays and pain and  hurt, and minsan, ang reputation tuloy natin, ‘pag hindi pa na-media,  hindi pa gagalaw,” said Cayetano.