House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco is supporting the swift passage of the bill creating the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
In a statement on Thursday, Velasco said the “onslaught” of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic on the economy and the people’s livelihoods has highlighted the need for the establishment of a department solely for the needs of OFWs.
“President [Rodrigo] Duterte’s statement that he will certify as urgent the measure for the creation of the Department of OFWs is very timely in order to address the woes confronting our migrant workers in these difficult times and at the same time help them transition when the global economy begins to reopen and return to pre-pandemic level,” Velasco said.
Citing data from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Velasco said that close to 500,000 OFWs have been displaced by the pandemic, while close to 15,000 are scheduled for repatriation and over 70,000 remain stranded across the globe as of October.
“Since the outbreak of Covid-19, we have seen the return of OFWs in droves after they lost their jobs, and thousands more are expected to come home with the global economy in slump,” he said.
He noted that OFW remittances provided a steady stream of foreign exchange to the Philippine economy, pitching 9.8 percent to the gross domestic product and 7.8 percent to the national income.
The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading its own version of the measure, House Bill No. 5832, last March.
He assured President Rodrigo Duterte that once the Senate passes its own version, the House will act on it in swift fashion so that it can be signed into law.
“This is the campaign promise of the President and we will see to it that it will become a reality. Our modern-day heroes need not hurt anymore,” he said.
Duterte has renewed his call to Congress to pass a bill establishing an OFW department, saying the welfare of OFWs should be handled by a separate department than the DOLE.
Duterte said the DOLE, despite having attached agencies, did not entirely focus on the plight of OFWs.
He promised the OFWs that there will be a more thorough review of policies “for your protection and that somebody should look after you”.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, for his part, said Duterte wants the OFW department to be established in the soonest possible time. (PNA)