Duterte renews call for passage of OFW department bill

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President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated his call to Congress to pass a measure establishing a Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), saying the welfare of OFWs should be handled by a separate department than the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

“I’d like to hurry up Congress in this. One of my proposals during the campaign period was the creation of Overseas Filipino [department]. Iba ‘yung Department of Labor. It takes care of the internal mga trabahante dito, ‘yung nasa labas (The Department of Labor is different. It takes care of the internal workers. This will take care of concerns of those abroad),” he said in a recorded speechon October 27, 2020.

Duterte said the DOLE, despite having attached agencies, did not entirely focus on the plight of OFWs.

“Itong sa overseas workers, ang ano nito ang rational or rationale (is), if you may, na wala masyadong focus. Kasi kalaki ng Department of Labor, isa lang ‘yan dito, isang department lang ‘yan (On overseas workers, the rationale is, if you may, it doesn’t have so much focus. Because the Department of Labor is so big, that’s just one department),” he said.

He promised the OFWs that there will be a more thorough review of policies “for your protection and that somebody should look after you.”

He also wanted an agency to address the concerns of seafarers but did not elaborate.

“I will also create another agency and that is the maritime, the seafarers, kasi sinabi ko sa kanila iba-iba ‘yung treatment ko doon (because I told them they have different treatment there) because of the so many international laws involved dito (here),” he said.

Meanwhile, Duterte asked Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to look into reports that a Filipino has been “stranded” in Vietnam for two years. He did not mention the person’s name.

“I’ve read that one Filipino has been stranded in — I think he is in Vietnam right now. I’d like to ask Secretary Bello, if he’s listening, to look into the matter. He has been there for two years. That is unconscionable,” he said.

He instructed Bello to facilitate his return to the Philippines.

“I cannot accept that kind of mistake of government. We should bring him home. No Filipino should be left stranded like a person with no nationality,” he added.

Duterte has repeatedly called on Congress to pass a bill establishing an OFW department.

At present, the DOLE’s attached agencies, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration are in charge of protecting the welfare of OFWs and their dependents.

In a Palace press briefing on Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte wants the OFW department to be established in the soonest possible time.

“Well, sa lalong mabilis na panahon po, gusto ni Presidenteng mabuo iyang departamento na iyan. At sigurado naman po ako na dahil dito, i-certify as urgent iyan nang mas mapabilis po ang pagpasa niyan bilang isang batas (He wants it established in the soonest possible time. And perhaps because of this, he will certify it as urgent so that its passage will be fast-tracked),” he said.  (Azer Parrocha, PNA)

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