Marcos bucks proposed department for migrant Filipinos

Published February 15, 2021, 8:09 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Imee Marcos is opposed to the creation of a new department for Filipinos overseas.

Senator Imee Marcos (Photo by Senate PRIB)

During the Senate labor committee’s hearing on proposed Department of Filipinos Overseas (DOFIL), Marcos said the powers of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) should just be expanded by an executive order to immediately address the concerns of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Marcos said creating a new line agency will entail more expenses for the government, which she said it can no longer afford especially following the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Huwag munang department kundi authority na lang kasi alam ko nga gaano lalaki ‘yong gastos (Let’s not create a new department, but an authority instead because I know how much this will cost),” she said. 

“Hindi ba pwedeng i-executive order na lang ‘yong POEA at talagang hirap na hirap na talaga ang ating mga OFW (Can’t we just grant more authority to the POEA since our OFWs are already suffering too much)? Expand the authority perhaps and integrate the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) and DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) functions that are relevant?”

In the hearing, Director Emelita Menghamal of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said the creation of the DOFIL will require an estimated minimum budget of P1.109 billion.

The cost, she said, does not include the funding for the implementation of programs, activities and projects to carry out its mandate.

“We don’t have P1 billion in the time of COVID[-19] burning a hole on our pockets. It’s simply not the case,” Marcos said.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, however, assured that the proposed DOFIL “will not be another big-budget ticket on the National Expenditure Program, but rather a rightsizing solution.”

The former congressman and House appropriations committee chairman said some P15 billion from the budgets assigned to existing offices that will be absorbed by the new agency may be earmarked for its establishment.

The offices would include Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs (OUMWA) under the DFA; the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) under the Office of the President; the International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB) and National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NCRO) under the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and the International Social Services Office (ISSO) under the DSWD.

While the transfer of the POEA and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration was also proposed, Nograles said their respective budgets “will be treated separately from the DOFIL as they shall be attached agencies with their own charters.”

Nograles also said that President Duterte is more inclined to support the creation of a new department, recalling that he already certified the proposed DOFIL as an urgent measure.

“The preference, with all due respect Senator Imee, is department level,” he said.

Still, Marcos was not convinced with Nograles’ explanations, saying: “To my mind, these are not that compelling.”

“I’m fully aware that this was part of the platform and the promises of President Duterte when he ran in 2016. But 2016 to 2021 has been a very, very long time. So I am reallly very keen that we carry on already. Kung EO lang yan, sige lang (If an EO is only necessary, then go on with it),” she said.