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Bill creating OFW department in Phl hurdles House

13 March 2020

By The SUN

The House of Representatives voted 173-11 to pass the bill creating the OFW Dept

A bill creating a separate department in the Philippines for overseas Filipino workers has been passed by the House of Representatives on third and final reading.

The lower chamber voted 173-11, with no abstention, on Wednesday, Mar 11, to pass House Bill 5832, which seeks to create the Department of Filipinos Overseas and Foreign Employment.

It was the last measure the members of the House voted on before going on their Lenten break.
The bill states that the new department will serve as the primary agency that will protect the rights and welfare of OFWs, through such measures as regulating deployment and pursuing illegal recruitment cases.

Two similar bills are currently pending at the Senate.

If a consolidated bill is approved by the Senate and signed into law by the President, the department will be led by a Secretary along with five undersecretaries with several functions - administration and finance, foreign employment, diaspora engagements and special concerns, assistance to Filipinos overseas in distress, and policy agreements.

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The department will take over the functions of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs of the Foreign Affairs Department and all Philippine Overseas Labor Offices under the Labor Department, among others. It will also oversee the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration as its attached agency.
The new department will take over POEA, OWWA, OUMWA and all Phl labor offices abroad
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, one of the bill’s principal authors, said the proposed law will address the problems of OFWs including physical and sexual abuse, illegal recruitment and human trafficking. It will address inadequate safety nets for displaced workers and rude treatment from embassy staff.
The department will also have the power to prosecute cases, particularly those involving human trafficking and illegal recruitment, in coordination with quasi-judicial bodies.

Opponents of the proposed legislation said, however, that it will only institutionalize labor export and duplicate the functions of existing agencies.

“This department does not add any protection to OFWs aside from expediting the exodus to foreign employment,” Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay) said.
Rep. Gabriel Bordado (Camarines Sur) said instead of duplicating the functions of DOLE and OWWA, the government should focus on creating job opportunities for Filipinos in the country.

“Creating localized, long-term employment opportunities for our citizens will ultimately be more beneficial to the economy and citizens who have no other choice but look at other countries for better job opportunities,” Bordado said.

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