Duterte wants separate agency for seafarers’ welfare, prods Congress to create new dept. of overseas workers

Published October 27, 2020, 2:31 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

President Duterte is planning the creation of a separate agency that will promote the welfare of the country’s seafarers.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte

The President disclosed plans for a new maritime agency after asking Congress to hasten the passage of a bill creating a department for migrant Filipino workers. 

“I will also create another agency and that is the maritime, the seafarers, kasi sinabi ko sa kanila iba-iba ‘yung treatment ko doon (I told them about the different treatment) because of the so many international laws involved dito,” Duterte said in an address aired on state television Tuesday. 

Duterte assured the Filipino workers abroad that “there will be a more thorough review of policies for your protection and that somebody should look after you.”

In the same speech, the President made a pitch for the passage of the new OFW department, saying it was a campaign promise he made back in 2016. He said such department is crucial to focus on the needs and concerns of migrant workers.

The House of Representatives has already approved its version of the “Department of Filipinos Overseas Act” on third and final reading last March. Under the bill, the new department will protect the rights and welfares of OFWs, regulate deployment, and clamp down on illegal recruitment. 

The President’s priority bill is still pending in the Senate.

“I’d like to hurry up Congress in this. One of my proposals during the campaign period was the creation of (a Department of) Overseas Filipino(s),” the President said.

“Iba ‘yung Department of Labor. It takes care of the internal mga trabahante dito, ‘yung nasa labas (The Department of Labor is different, it takes care of the internal workers here. For those abroad) I proposed in the coming months and I hope to come up with a Department of Overseas Workers,” he said.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the proposed OFW department may be certified as urgent by the President.

Meanwhile, the President has directed the labor department to bring home any Filipino worker who may be stranded abroad due to the pandemic. He mentioned a case of a Filipino worker who has been stuck in Vietnam.

“I’d like to ask Secretary Bello, if he’s listening, to look into the matter. He has been there for two years. That is unconscionable. I cannot accept that kind of mistake of government. We should bring him home,” he said.

“No Filipino should be left stranded like a person with no nationality. Tingnan itong mabuti itong problema na ‘to at baka ma-solve kaagad. I hope the Department of Labor would take this suggestion seriously,” he added.