Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go lamented Saturday that the government continues to be constrained in fully discharging its responsibilities to safeguard the rights and promote the welfare and interests of overseas Filipinos because of the current set up of the bureaucracy.
Go, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, affirmed the need for the establishment of a new department with an internal organization that allows the State to carry out its functions and mandates more efficiently and more responsive to the needs of concerned sectors amid challenging times.
“Matagal na ako sa serbisyo publiko. Mahigit dalawang dekada akong nanilbihan kay Pangulong [Rodrigo] Duterte. Alam ko na kung watak watak ang mga ahensya, hindi ganun kabilis at maayos ang serbisyo ng gobyerno (I have been in public service for more than two decades under President Duterte. I know if the agencies are not organized, the government service is not that fast and proper),” he noted.
He argued that Congress must act quickly to streamline functions, improve coordination, and make government more responsive to the needs of millions of overseas Filipinos who must contend with the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 crisis and global economic downturn, among others.
Go expressed concern over the inefficiencies and inconveniences that occur should the bureaucracy continue to remain in its current state which affects the ability of the whole government to respond appropriately and deliver in a timely manner the assistance needed by constituents.
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) reported that government has helped repatriate around 370,000 OFWs since the start of the pandemic. An estimated 80,000 more are expected to return to the Philippines within the first half of 2021.
Despite this, Go warned that more protections would be needed during the pandemic and towards recovery as well as in preparation for future global emergencies.
“Sampung porsyento ng populasyon natin ay mga overseas Filipinos. Malaki ang ambag nila sa ating ekonomiya. Bakit ipagkakait natin ang mas maayos na serbisyo ng gobyerno para sa kanila? (Ten percent of our population are overseas Filipinos. They have a huge contribution to our economy. Why do we have to deprive them of better government service?).”
Go emphasized the need to streamline all related responsibilities concerning Filipinos overseas into one department so that decisions and actions can be made in the shortest time possible.
“Hirap na ang mga kababayan natin. Huwag na natin sila mas pahirapan pa dahil sa burukrasya. Gawin natin ang lahat para maging akma, sapat, mabilis at maayos ang serbisyo natin sa kanila (Our countrymen are in distress. Let us not burden them further because of bureaucracy. Let us do everything to make our service to them efficient, sufficient, fast and better),” he said.
To ensure that government meets its responsibilities and objectives, the senator from Davao has filed Senate Bill (SB) 1949, known as the Department of Overseas Filipinos (DOFil) Act of 2020, which is the third version of a measure he first filed on July 2019.
The bill creating DOFil is one of the priority measures of the administration mentioned numerous times by President Duterte, including in his last two State-of-the-Nation Addresses (SoNAs). The President recently certified this most recent version filed by Go as urgent, which prompts the Legislative branch to act on the matter immediately.