By Filane Mikee Cervantes
MANILA – The House of Representatives on Wednesday adopted the Senate version of a bill seeking to establish the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) that would address all issues and concerns of Filipino workers abroad in one single agency.
With the adoption of the Senate version, the two chambers would no longer hold a bicameral conference committee meeting and the measure would be transmitted to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.
The bill, certified urgent by Malacañang in May, seeks to consolidate into a single coherent office the agencies which attend to the needs of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Under the bill, the proposed department will orchestrate all efforts and policies for the protection of OFWs.
The functions and mandate of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) will be absorbed by the proposed department.
With POEA as the backbone, a total of seven offices are consolidated and merged as the Department of Migrant Workers (DFA-OUMWA, POEA, POLO, ILAB, NRCO and NMP under DOLE, and the Office of the Social Welfare Attache of DSWD). The OWWA will be an attached agency of the new department.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda highlighted the provision in the bill proposing to create Migrant Workers Offices in the country’s embassies.
“We currently manage OFW concerns in a very ad hoc manner among our embassies. With the institutionalization of an office and a system for helping our OFWs in the countries where they work, OFWs can rest better assured that they are not alone in these countries,” Salceda said.
He said the institutionalization of a full cycle reintegration program is also a key feature of this potential law.
“Reintegration should include a skills transfer, and in the tech-voc centered education system that I envision for the country, highly-skilled OFWs will make excellent teachers. Part of reintegration must be to make returning OFWs feel that they are not dependents of the state, but are highly important contributors to national development, even when they come home,” he said.
Christmas gift to OFWs
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) Party-list said the decision of the House to adopt the Senate version is a Christmas gift to OFWs and seafarers and their families and the entire Filipino nation.
“We are awaiting its signing into law by President Rodrigo Duterte,” TUCP said in a statement.
“We thank all those who struggled and fought with us for three years – land-based OFW workers groups, sea-based workers group, including Associated Philippine Seafarers Union (APSU), and Associated Marine Officers and Seamen’s Unions of the Philippines (AMOSUP), the non-government organizations led by the Ople Center, and the Joint Manning Group (JMG). Mabuhay ang ating mga OFWs ang mga Bagong Bayani,” it added.
TUCP Party-list Rep. Raymond Mendoza said the establishment of the DMW would expedite the various government assistance and supports for OFWs and their families. (with reports from Christine Joice Cudis/PNA)