Adverse repercussion if OFW department is formed at great haste

Published April 25, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Jun Concepcion

OFW Forum

Jun Concepcion

Every OFW yearns to have his or her own dream house for comfortable and blissful retirement upon returning  home for good one day after long years of toiling abroad away from loved ones.

This narrative never changes whether an OFW is work ing in Hong Kong, Singapore,  Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Libya, Italy, Switzerland, Brazil or Canada.

More often than not, any and all grandiose dreams are contemplated and savored in superlative terms.

“I want the best dream home, and I won’t settle for anything less than the very best for myself and my family when I come home for good” best sums up the fervent desire of every OFW, including those engaged in non-menial jobs in office settings.

After toiling for long hours and even enduring an array of physical, psychological and other abuses, especially in the Middle East, and painstakingly building up savings, setting up a dream house is more often than not among the very top priorities of most OFWs.

I should know. I’m an overseas Pinoy, and I have seen and spoken to countless OFWs who yearned to own their dream home at the end of their overseas journey. Many have succeeded in attaining their dream, but many others have failed. The failure is due to a host of reasons. They include lack of discipline in saving for the future and lack of foresight, boldness and determination to embrace the big challenge of putting up a dream house even if it entails taking on a housing loan payable over 10 years or more.

But what essential elements that inevitably go into pursuing and attaining one’s dream home? These vital elements include: a cherished and desired design of the dream home, blueprint, hiring of competent architect, engineers and a contractor with solid building track record and finally, getting adequate comfort and assurance of meticulous and proper construction of the dream home.

Collectively, OFW leaders, advocates and OFWs themselves from different groups have pressed for their own “house” in government, a single agency specifically dedicated to them. Legislators granted their wish and passed last December a law that created the Department of Migrant Workers (DOMW).

A few days later, President Duterte signed the DOMW legislation and he subsequently designated his OFW affairs adviser Abdullah Mama-o to serve as its first secretary.

To his credit, Mama-o apparently went to work right away and declared his desire to see the immediate establishment of the new OFW agency, a complicated process that will entail the amalgamation into it of different OFW-related agencies currently under the departments of Labor, Foreign Affairs and Social Welfare, as well as OWWA.

But the haste in which he wanted to set up the new agency eventually ran into a brick wall. Why the big rush in its establishment, asked Foreign Affairs chief Teodoro Locsin and Senator Franklin Drilon in statements published recently by various media outlets. Wasn’t there supposed to be a transition, being overseen by a DOMW Transition Committee, before attached agencies of several departments DFA are merged into and taken over by DOMW? Unfazed, Mama-o pressed his case during the public hearing on April 20 of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Overseas Workers.

Later that day, DOLE information officer Rolly Francia told the media that the president has approved a new set of implementing rules and regulations (IRR) from the DOMW Transition Committee.

His approval of the DOMW Transition Committee’s IRR effectively invalidates Mama-o’s own IRR version that provides for the DOMW’s hasty establishment. Transition team leaders Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Y. Arriola and POEA chief Bernard P. Olalia reportedly asked Duterte to void Mama-o’s version of the DOMW IRR that he issued earlier this month.

A Hong Kong-based NGO and OFW rights advocate, Alliance of Overseas Filipino Workers for Change commends Duterte for doing what is best for OFWs in general even if it entailed setting aside a close aide’s management stance and style. By doing what he did, Duterte avoids grave errors committed in the OFW Bank and the OFW Hospital, currently being constructed in San Fernando, Pampanga. The follies in the two projects are clear: Why set up an OFW bank which only provides savings account opening and fund transfer services? Why set up a lone OFW hospital in Pampanga which is unlikely to serve OFWs from Mindanao and the Visayas?

Had Mama-o got away with the hasty establishment of the DOMW, it won’t be surprising if it is plagued by deficiencies, errors and grave mistakes. They will be most unfair to OFWs who yearn for their “dream home” in government.

Lessons can be learned from a Filipino couple in Hong Kong. Over 10 years after construction of their supposedly dream home, its electrical and water systems remain problematic all because its construction was shoddy and done in great haste.

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