Senate committees to begin hearing on bills seeking to protect OFWs

Published February 2, 2021, 10:03 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go on Tuesday issued a strong appeal to the government to provide greater protection and assistance to overseas Filipinos and their families amid the struggles they face caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and other crisis situations abroad.

(JANSEN ROMERO / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, made the appeal after Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri disclosed yesterday that the Senate committees are set to begin deliberations on various bills, including his Senate Bill 1949 seeking to create a Department of Overseas Filipinos (DOFil).        

“This is a welcome development. We will resume the committee hearings into the overseas Filipino department bills,” Senator Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Senate labor committee, said.        

 “The pandemic has exposed the weakness of our policies on OFWs, particularly our reintegration program to help them transition back to the local labor force,” Villanueva added.

Go also raised concerns on recent unfortunate incidents, such as allegedly abuses of Filipinos in Syria, as well as the shocking murder of Mary Anne Daynolo in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.         

“I offer my deepest condolences to Mary Anne’s family for her untimely passing. Their grief and pain at this time are beyond words. My thoughts and prayers are with them and everyone who loved her,” said Go.     

Daynolo, aged 30, was officially reported missing on March 6, 2020. She was last sighted two days prior at a hotel where she worked as a receptionist. A search was quickly launched after a sibling who is also based in the U.A.E. reported her disappearance.         

Despite this, the authorities made little progress and the victim’s family in the Philippines organized an online campaign to aid in the search. Her remains were finally recovered nine months after her disappearance and were flown to the Philippines on Saturday, January 30.      

Go has also expressed his grave concern over the reported trafficking of some Filipino women forcibly taken to Syria and abused by their employers.         

Under Senator Go’s proposed measure, the department shall subsume and streamline all responsibilities pertaining to overseas employment and migration that are presently scattered among various departments and agencies.         

It will be primarily responsible for protecting the rights and promoting the welfare of overseas Filipinos as well as managing and monitoring their employment abroad and reintegration once they return.      

Notably, SB 1949 directs the implementation of a one country-team which shall require all officials in Philippine diplomatic posts to act together as one team, per country of assignment.        

Go emphasized that creating DOFil would not bloat the bureaucracy and is in line with the objectives of rightsizing and streamlining government functions.        

The bill has been certified as urgent by President Duterte. It is also one of the 20 priority measures identified by both chambers of Congress for 2021.

 
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