By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Joel Villanueva said the government can now respond better to the needs of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) following the signing of the Social Welfare Attaché Act (SWA) by President Duterte.
“Now that the SWA has been institutionalized, we are confident that the psycho-social needs of our OFWs will be addressed better,” Villanueva said.
President Duterte signed on April 17 Republic Act 11299, the act establishing the Office for the Social Welfare Attaché. It amends Republic Act No. 8045, the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, to allow the deployment of social welfare officers in countries that host many OFWs.
“We thank the President for enacting this bill which stands to benefit OFWs, whose contribution to our economy entails personal sacrifice. Umaasa po tayo na sa bisa ng batas na ito, regular na pong magkakaroon ng mga social welfare attache sa ating mga tanggapan sa ibang bansa,” said Villanueva.
As chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, Villanueva authored and sponsored the measure during the 17th Congress.
Under the new law, the social welfare attachés, deployed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), are tasked to manage cases of OFWs in distress and in need of psychosocial services due to trafficking, sexual abuse, maltreatment, and other forms of abuse, as well as cases of abandoned children.
The attachés must also establish and maintain a data bank and documentation of OFWs and their families so that appropriate social welfare services can be more effectively provided to them.
According to Villanueva, social welfare attachés in various countries have served only a total of 78,241 distressed overseas Filipinos from 2013 until the first half of 2018.
The Department of Labor and Employment recorded over four million OFWs all over the world as of 2018, he noted.
A budget of P90 million was allocated in the 2019 national budget for the Office of the Social Welfare Attache.
Seven social welfare attachés have been deployed to Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Qatar; Kuwait; Malaysia, and Hong Kong.
He said additional five posts are expected to be opened this year in Abu Dhabi, Jordan, Lebanon, Italy, and South Korea.
Villanueva said he expects that more social welfare attachés will be deployed to cater to the needs of the growing number of OFWs.