Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go today urged government agencies under the Executive branch to help lawmakers fine tune a bill seeking the establishment of a Department of Overseas Filipinos that would be taken up when Congress resumes its regular session on July 27.
Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, said the current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has had a very negative impact on the welfare of Filipino workers, particularly those overseas.
To hasten the discussions on Senate Bill 202, or the Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2019, Go said various agencies in the Executive department should agree on certain provisions and help legislators fine-tune the bill.
“Nagkausap na kami ni Senator Joel Villanueva na tumatayong chairman ng Senate Committee on Labor. Gusto nating magkasundo ang Executive sa mga probisyon dito sa bill para mas mapabilis ang diskusyon,” Go explained. (I talked to Senator Villanueva who is chairman of the Senate labor committee. We want the executive branch and the legislature agree on several contentious provisions to hasten the passage of the measure.)
Go explained that several agencies have already given their comments on the bill which he filed last year. The House of Representatives has already passed its version of the measure last March 11.
Go said the DOLE, DFA and other agencies have already submitted their comments on the bill he had filed.
Go emphasized that he has already discussed the importance of the measure and the possibility of hastening the passage of the bill with his fellow senators.
He said that the pandemic has highlighted the need for a department that could better respond to the needs of OFWs.
“Importante klaro po ang mandato nito at ‘di mag-overlap sa ibang ahensya tulad ng DOLE at DFA,” Go said. (It is important that there is a clear mandate and does not overlap with other agencies just like the DOLE and DFA.)
Go noted that the agencies handling OFW matters being scattered in several departments pose a challenge in the delivery of public services to the sector.
Although agencies work together in assisting OFWs, Go said that a sole department that would streamline the services would greatly improve service delivery. Among the agencies currently serving OFWs include Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA),Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
He said that some 10 million Filipinos, or roughly 10 per cent of the country’s population are working overseas, thereby underscoring the need for a Cabinet-level department in the executive branch.
In a public hearing of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development last month, Go urged the government to improve its response to the concerns of OFWs amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Go also stressed that the government’s way of dealing with OFW issues during crises must be improved.
He said that the government should not wait for another pandemic to happen before implementing a more proactive approach of effectively responding to the needs of overseas Filipinos.