By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Kabayan Party-list Rep. Ron P. Salo pressed the need Saturday for Congress to pass a bill seeking the creation of the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to safeguard and promote the interest and welfare of the country’s modern-day economic heroes.
He made the call as he cited that OFWs contributed a total of $33.8 billion to the Philippine economy in 2018.
“Having all the various agencies dealing with migrant workers all in one department will improve the way government delivers its services and address many of the issues and problems OFWs and other migrant Pinoy workers face,” Salo said in a statement.
Salo noted that the Technical Working Group of the House Committee on Government Reorganization which he chaired, was working double time to ensure the passage of the five pending measures on the proposed department.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) would be part of the new department of migrant workers being proposed, he said.
“The situation now is that several agencies are spread across various departments which not only hampers coordination and response, but also creates unnecessary burdens for OFWs hopping from one agency to another,” Salo, member of the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, said.
He described as country’s “economic heroes” the OFWs, citing the newly released April 2019 World Bank Migration and Development Brief showing that the OFWs contributed a total of $33.8 billion to the Philippine economy in 2018 – fourth highest among migrant workers in the world.
Citing the latest official figures from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Salo noted that the cash remittances from mainland China have been plunging since 2016 while Bahrain was the only significant bright spot in the Middle East.
India received the biggest remittance from its migrant workers with $78.6 billion, followed by China with $67.4 billion, and Mexico’s $35.7 billion, he noted citing the BSP.
“From a high of about $170 million in 2016, OFW money sent from the Chinese mainland to dependents here in the Philippines fell to $70 million in 2017 and $48 million last year,” Salo said.
“But the reverse is happening in Taiwan and Hong Kong. OFW remittances from there are rising and strong,” he added.
He cited that the remittances from Bahrain are growing steadily, but Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries continue to post declines.
Salo, a member of the House Committee on Economic Affairs, said cash transfers from Singapore and South Korea have high volume, while from Vietnam there has been sustained growth from just $2.8 million in 2011 to $16.6 million in 2018.
“In Europe, the United Kingdom lords over the rest, but Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, and Cyprus are in its wake,” he said.
Salo noted that Africa “is becoming the new frontier with overall January 2019 remittances jumping by almost 66 percent to nearly $14 million and whole year 2018 total of $147.65 million.”
By country source, the United States registered the highest share of overall remittances at 35.5 percent, according to BSP.
It was followed by Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Canada, Qatar, Hong Kong, and Kuwait, it said.
“The combined remittances from these countries accounted for almost 78 percent of total cash remittances,” the BSP noted.