By Betheena Unite
Funding is not the only thing that can ensure the repatriation of distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to the country, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Friday.
During a six-hour House committee hearing to clarify issues on the challenges experienced by OFWs affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Bello stressed that bringing back displaced migrant workers to the country is not assured by funding alone without other equally important factors.
“In repatriating our OFWs, we also have to consider the lockdowns imposed by countries where they are working,” Bello said during the House Public Accounts Committee hearing chaired by Rep. Mike Defensor.
He emphasized that “lock-ins” and “lock-outs” in nations affected by COVID-19 “are still major stumbling blocks in the process even if the Philippines opens its doors to migrant workers amid its own restrictions to stop the spread of the deadly virus.”
Legal impediments tied to the exit visas, loans, and cases of OFWs who want to go home are also among the factors to be considered prior to repatriation.
“It really gets frustrating when foreign employers refuse to give the exit visas of our OFWs to stop them from returning to the Philippines. There are many employers like that abroad,” the Labor secretary said.
“Repatriation of OFWs also becomes difficult to achieve when they still have loans to settle and complaints to face,” Bello added.
House Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Ray ‘LRay’ Villafuerte, in his manifestation, pushed for more funds to boost government efforts to bring home the distressed migrant workers.
While affirming that more funds cannot ensure the repatriation of all embattled OFWs, Bello said that bigger funds can boost the whole-lot-of-government approach to save migrant workers from their misery.
He further explained that the best solution to the problem is still the tight coordinated efforts of all concerned government agencies and private sector.