House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and other agencies to convene an inter-agency meeting to study and decide programs that would be integrated to address concerns of overseas Filipino workers still stranded abroad.
During the briefing on the whole-of-government approach in its migration policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cayetano cited to the heads of agencies present during the virtual meeting the advantages of conducting an inter-agency consultation to solve the issues of OFWs seeking to return to the Philippines.
The virtual briefing was conducted by the House Committee on Public Accounts chaired by Anakalusugan partylist Rep. Michael Defensor.
The DFA, represented by Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola, lauded Cayetano and the House panel for organizing the meeting. Arriola said the House leadership was instrumental in the increase in number of OFWs repatriated to the country in the past several weeks.
Noting that there were still serious problems bugging the repatriation efforts and the overall situation of COVID-19 threatened Filipinos abroad, Cayetano proposed that concerned agencies should come up with an “integrated and comprehensive plan” for OFWs.
To ensure that the needs of the OFW programs are sustained amid the battle against COVID-19, Cayetano asked the DFA, DoLE, and other OFW-related agencies to submit their funding requirements that can be funded either under the Bayanihan to Recover as One (Bayanihan II) or the 2021 national budget.
The House Leader pointed out that there is a need for the OFW-related agencies to convene an inter-agency meeting to determine the missing elements or the weakest links in the system.
He said returning OFWs often experience being pointed to one agency after the other for their documentation, training, funding, and educational needs.
Cayetano recalled that during his stint as Foreign Affairs Secretary, an inter-agency working group was formed to identify existing programs across different government agencies and discuss areas of cooperation and integration.
“It requires full coordination and adoption of a whole-of-government approach,” he said.
Cayetano recommended that the chairmen of the House Committees on Labor and Overseas Workers Affairs be included in the proposed inter-agency meeting.