Go urges gov’t to be more responsive to needs of overseas Filipinos

Published June 25, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Mario Casayuran

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, today said that both Malacanang and Congress should work together to make government more responsive to the ‘’needs of Filipinos abroad who are about 10 percent of our population.’’

Senator Christopher "Bong" Go (PRIB Photo by Cesar Tomambo /29 July 2019)
Senator Christopher “Bong” Go
(PRIB Photo by Cesar Tomambo /29 July 2019)

Go made the remark as the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development tackled on Wednesday, June 24, various bills related to the concerns of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

During the hearing, Go acknowledged the contributions of OFWs to society and the economy which should be reciprocated with increased responsiveness to their issues and concerns.

“Matagal na po nating itinuturing na bagong bayani ang ating mga OFWs. Malaking tulong po ang kanilang kontribusyon hindi lang sa ating ekonomiya, kundi pati na rin sa pag-ahon sa kanilang mga pamilya at komunidad (We have considered our OFWs as new heroes. Their contribution is very significant not only to the country’s economy, but also in the rise of their families and communities.),” he said.

In light of the current pandemic, Go expressed his concern for the welfare of OFWs, referring to the fact that some of them have lost their jobs and now struggle to provide for their families.

“My fellow legislators, hirap na hirap na po ang ating mga OFWs ngayon. Marami po sa kanila ang nawalan ng mga trabaho dulot ng pandemya. Apektado rin po ang mga pamilya na umaasa sa OFWs sa kanilang pang araw-araw na pangkabuhayan (Our OFWs are already hard up at this time. Many of them have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. The families who depend their daily subsistence from the OFWs are also affected),” he explained.

Ngayon, marami po talagang mga OFWs ang hindi alam kung ano ang gagawin sa kabila ng mga pagbabagong dala ng COVID-19. Marami sa kanila ang namomroblema kung ano ang ipangtutustos sa kanilang mga pamilya o makakapagtrabaho pa ba silang muli,’’(At present, there are several OFWs who do not know what to do amid the changes brought by COVID-19. Most of them are having problems where to source the financial need of their families or if they can still go back to their works),” he said.

Expressing President Duterte’s compassion for OFWs, Go enumerated some of the programs that the government has implemented, with the help of the private sector, to address some of the pressing concerns of OFWs even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Meron na po tayong OFW Bank na naitayo ni Pangulong Duterte noon pang 2017 through Executive Order No. 44 (There’s already an OFW Bank that was created by President Duterte in 2017 through Executive Order No. 44) which offers financial products and services tailored to the requirements of OFWs. This bank can lend to OFWs especially at this time na naapektuhan ang kanilang trabaho abroad at kakailanganin nila ng kabuhayan dito sa Pilipinas (…that their jobs abroad were affected and they need livelihood here in the Philippines),” Go said.

He also mentioned the existence of the first OFW hospital which would provide free medical services to OFWs and their immediate family members.

“Apart from the OFW bank, we have also established the first OFW Hospital in San Fernando City, Pampanga wherein I was invited in the groundbreaking on February 18 this year,” he said in Pilipino.

Stressing the need for a central authority to consolidate agencies that handle OFW-related matters, Go called for the consideration and passage of his proposed bill creating an executive department for OFWs.

“Aside from the relevant OFW-related bills we will tackle today, I call on my fellow legislators to also consider the creation of the Department of Overseas Filipinos to help our kababayans (countrymen) abroad,” said Go.

“Right now, our government is having a difficult time in addressing all the concerns of our OFWs because, considering the sheer number of OFWs, we do not have one unified agency that primarily focuses on their affairs and concerns,” he added.

While the DOFW bill is still pending discussions in the Senate, Go urged concerned agencies to improve on their inter-agency coordination to effectively respond to the needs of OFWs, especially the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

”If some of you do not like the DOFW for fear of losing your coverage, let us settle this and help the department to comply with its mandate. The department will cater to some eleven million overseas Filipinos or 10% of the population. There is really a need for a department that focuses on them, an office they can approach. At present, overseas Filipinos do not know whom to call for assistance, they call here, they make their appeal in Facebook because they do not know what office to call for help,” he said in Pilipino.

Noting that the DOFW has already been passed in the Lower House, Go thanked their counterparts in the House of Representatives for supporting the proposed measure.

He also recognized the efforts of the Senate Committee on Labor for prioritizing measures to help OFWs and other workers affected by the crisis.

Go also expressed his support to the well-meaning measures proposed by his fellow senators being tackled in the committee hearing.

“Our overseas Filipino workers have been among the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is why this committee hearing is very important as we will tackle legislative measures that will help them during their hour of need,” he said.

“Thus, I express my support for the many bills to be taken up today. The credit assistance program and other incentives are really of great help for the OFWs in putting up businesses,” he said in Pilipino.

During the hearing, the Senate Labor Committee tackled various measures concerning OFWs and workers affected by the pandemic. Among these are the Overseas Filipino Workers Credit Assistance Act (Senate Bill (SB) 317); Business Incentives for OFWs Act (SB 566); Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) Act (SB 1456); National Digital Careers Act (SB 1469); and Credit Assistance for OFWs (SB 801).