Solon urges formation of reintegration plan for 10K OFWs from Kuwait
MANILA — Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday called on the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to craft a comprehensive plan to reintegrate more than 10,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are expected to be repatriated from Kuwait who have expired work permits.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has said that the overstaying OFWs are expected to apply for repatriation following the Duterte administration’s decision to implement a complete ban on the deployment of OFWs to the Middle Eastern country.
The DFA added that the Philippine government would shoulder the costs of the migrants’ airfares and penalties for overstaying their visas.
Gatchalian, the primary author of the OWWA Charter, said that as the government agency primarily tasked to safeguard the welfare of OFWs, OWWA needs to be proactive in steering the government’s efforts to reintegrate these repatriated workers into Philippine society.
“Pursuant to its mandate, OWWA must come up with a comprehensive plan to ensure that OFWs returning from Kuwait are able to find new job opportunities, pursue further education and skills training, and gain access to other essential social services,” the lawmaker said.
Sec. 35(a) of the OWWA Charter (Republic Act 10801) provides that “the reintegration of OFWs, taking into consideration the needs of women migrant workers, shall be one of the core programs of the OWWA.”
The main office in charge of implementing this provision is the National Reintegration Center for OFWs, an attached office of the OWWA.
The law further provides that “not less than 10 percent of OWWA’s collection of contributions for the immediately preceding year shall be allocated annually for the reintegration program.”
Gatchalian added that if necessary, he would strongly support the passage of a supplemental budget to increase funding for the reintegration program to address possible shortfalls brought about by the sudden mass repatriation.
“It is possible that the unexpected mass repatriation of OFWs stationed in Kuwait will stretch the OWWA’s repatriation and reintegration capacities. If this is the case, then OWWA should immediately request additional funding from Congress to ensure that all of the repatriated OFWs will be sufficiently covered by the reintegration efforts,” Gatchalian said. (PNA)