Despite the Duterte administration’s push for the creation of the Department of Overseas Filipinos (DOFIL), Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Monday that the government’s goal is for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to return home and remain in the Philippines.
“The policy of government still maintains to be, that while we are protecting our Filipinos overseas, ultimately, what we want to them to do is be productive domestically,” Nograles said at the resumption of the Senate labor committee’s hearing on the bills proposing the DOFIL on February 15.
The Cabinet official made the clarification as senators expressed anew the concern that the creation of a new line agency for OFWs would encourage the migration of Filipinos abroad, instead of the government creating more job opportunities in the country.
“For many many years, the goal [has been] to create domestic jobs. Padamihin ang trabaho dito, padamihin ang nagnenegosyo (Boost employment, increase the number of businesses). In fact, all of the pieces of legislation enacted these past few years were all geared towards expanding our local economy and expanding jobs,” Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said during the hearing.
“But with this proposal, CabSec Nograles, we’re in effect signaling that ‘Mag-abroad kayo dahil meron na tayong departamentong hahawak sa mga problema (Fly abroad because we now have a department that would handle your problems)’. Isn’t this contradictory to our goal of creating more jobs domestically?” he raised.
Labor committee chairman Senator Joel Villanueva also echoed this position later, even as he, too, pushed for the DOFIL’s creation to ensure the welfare of OFWs.
Nograles said that while the state policy remains, “we also cannot turn a blind eye to the reality, that…there’s really migration, there’s regular migration happening.”
He added that creation DOFIL will also be in compliance with the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, in which the Philippines is a signatory.
The Cabinet Secretry also noted that the proposal comes with a “mandatory review” of the DOFIL’s accomplishments ten years after its creation. Members of Congress, he said, would have the prerogative on whether to retain or abolish the agency.
“The mandatory review really is the signal na alam po natin na (that we know that), in the long-term, ang gusto po natin talaga ay makabalik at makapagtrabaho ang ating mga Filipinos overseas, maka-establish ng kanilang sariling negosyo at hanapbuhay dito po sa ating bansang Pilipinas (what we really want is for overseas Filipino to return home and work or establish businesses in the Philippines),” he said.
“And hopefully, lahat ng mga natutunan nila (all of the things they learned) — the technologies, know-how, skills — that they acquired abroad ay magagamit din nila eventually dito bansa (will be used eventually) for the benefit of the Filipinos and the nation,” he added.
The National Economic and Development Authority, meanwhile, proposed that reintegration be made an explicit mandate of the proposed DOFIL to ensure the return of Filipinos. It also proposed to require departing Filipinos to come up with “financial plan” so the agency could help them in their return.