Cayetano’s push for Department of Migrant Workers bears fruit for OFWs

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Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday said overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are finally getting the recognition and treatment they deserve with President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing on Thursday of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Act which he initiated and advocated for both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives.

“When I first filed Senate Bill No. 1435 on May 4, 2017, I wanted to see the creation of a single department that would address the many issues and concerns of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families face on a regular basis,” Cayetano said in a statement on December 27, 2021.

While that bill did not make it to law, Cayetano filed again in 2019 and finally led the House of Representatives in passing House Bill No. 5832 on March 11, 2020 when he was Speaker.

The bill, of which Cayetano was the principal author, aimed to create a Department of Overseas Filipino Workers and Foreign Employment —  a single agency that would focus solely on the concerns of OFWs.

When the Senate approved its version, Senate Bill 2234, on December 14, 2021, the House promptly adopted it the following day in order to bypass the need for a bicameral conference committee meeting and to allow the measure to be transmitted to Malacañang for the President’s signature.

Cayetano thanked the President for the enactment of the DMW, saying it ushers in a new era for overseas Filipinos who have sacrificed much to be able to provide for the families and to keep the country’s economy going through the decades.

“We have always called our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) our modern day heroes but government has not been able to give full attention to them because their welfare is handled by different departments and agencies,” he said.

“We have always found it ironic that while our OFWs have kept our economy vibrant with their remittances over the past decades, they have been given a hard time when it comes to their transactions with government through red tape and bureaucracy,” he added.

Cayetano said the creation of the new department would pave the way for a more appropriate budget for the services and programs for OFWs and allow the national government to respond better to their needs in times of crisis.

“During our term as Foreign Affairs Secretary, we became close to OFWs and we advocated for programs such as the Assistance to Nationals Fund and the Legal Assistance Fund to assist our kababayans,” he said.

The DMW will absorb the current OFW-related functions of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s (OWWA) National Reintegration Center, the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs, the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) International Social Services Office, and the Office of the President’s Commission on Filipino Overseas.

The new Department’s powers and functions include the following:

* Implement national policies and plans, ensuring the promotion of the interests of our OFWs and their effective reintegration to Philippine society.

* Regulate private recruitment, manning agencies, and other employment processes of OFWs.

* Cooperate with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) on matters related to illegal recruitment and human trafficking cases.

* Promote the well-being of the families of OFWs.

* Provide a comprehensive set of services to OFWs throughout the whole migration cycle until reintegration.

* Establish a 24/7 Emergency Response and Action Center Unit for the needs OFWs and their families

* Develop a training institute for leadership and skills training.

“With the DMW, we will have a Secretary whose primary responsibility is to protect and promote the welfare of our OFWs — someone who will be held accountable in Cabinet meetings — and provide the services the OFWs need,” Cayetano said in his statement.

“OFWs are a priority for me, and to know that the government is also beginning to show how important OFWs are is good news for me,” he added.

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