Such agency will serve as a channel to address all issues and grievances of our “modern-day heroes,” including the promotion of their full and just employment and the mitigation of social costs back home.
The senator’s initiative came weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte announced during his state visit to Saudi Arabia that a department for OFWs was now in the works, but jurisdiction on its creation lay with Congress.
Cayetano pointed out that each year, around two million Filipinos are driven to leave the country due to poverty and joblessness at home. Most of these migrant workers, he lamented, were forced to endure oppressive work conditions at the hands of abusive employers or illegal recruiters.
“Despite the existence of agencies to protect them, OFWs and their families continue to face numerous problems and challenges such as illegal recruitment; employer abuse; inadequate benefits; inefficient and ineffective delivery of services; and the lack of representation in the agencies that are supposed to protect and promote their rights,” he said.
“Hence, there is a pressing need to prioritize the creation of an agency that would manage, harmonize, and strengthen existing policies and programs to address the needs of foreign Filipino employment,” he further stressed.
The proposed department, which will be headed by a person with a rank of Cabinet Secretary, shall be the primary policy, programming, coordinating, and administrative entity of the executive branch, providing assistance to OFWs in the field of overseas labor and employment, according to the statementreleased on Thursday, May 4.
The measure also proposes to create a P1-billion OFW Distress and Assistance Fund to provide financial support for OFWs in distress — including repatriation and provisions for life-saving funds in times of great emergency – as well as training and livelihood loans for returning OFWs.
Cayetano was Duterte’s runningmate in the 2016 national elections but lost to now Vice President Leni Robredo.
He has been reported to be eyeing the Foreign Affairs portfolio after a one-year ban on election candidates from holding Cabinet positions lapses in May.