January 25, 2017
Villar: Department of Migration to focus on OFW affairs
Sen. Cynthia Villar said the Department of Migration and Development once created, will be a dedicated department to look after the affairs of 12 million Filipinos overseas.
Senate Bill No. 146 or the "Department of Migration and Development Act of 2016," seeks to create a department that will recommend and implement the government's policies, plans and programs for the promotion of protection, safety, development, support, of and for Filipinos overseas and their families left behind.
Villar thanked Sen. Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development for identifying the bill, which she authored, as a priority measure.
"It is timely and appropriate to create a government agency in the executive department, which shall have the exclusive function of protecting and enforcing the welfare and rights of Filipinos overseas. We need an empowered agency that will adequately support and give assistance to them," Villar said.
The Department of Migration and Development is envisioned to develop, implement and improve coordination with other countries with the presence of Filipinos and monitor foreign developments to ensure the most reasonable working conditions for the OFWs and create a proactive approach in providing assistance to them especially in times of war and civil unrest, whether potential or apparent.
It will also promote, develop and monitor the continuing education, training and qualification, availability and deployment of OFWs and coordinate with concerned agencies in the training of overseas Filipinos to improve their competitiveness globally.
Under the bill, POEA and OWWA will be attached to the department for policy and program coordination.
The bill also seeks to create the P1-billion Special Assistance Revolving Fund for Filipino Migrants, including both documented and undocumented. It will be used for emergency repatriation; medical expenses; immigration penalties; legal assistance; payment of blood money; humanitarian assistance to families left behind; scholarships for children of Filipinos overseas; maintenance and operational expenses including capital outlay for the establishment of One-Stop Migrant Processing and Assistance Centers.
Citing Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas records, the Nacionalista Party senator said OFWs' remittances, which amounts to $25.76 billion sent thru formal channels and $28.5 billion personal remittances are considered significant contributors to the country's gross domestic product that keep the Philippine economy buoyant.
The bill also seeks to create an inter-agency coordinating Council on Migration and Development, which shall be composed of the Secretaries of the Department of Migration and Development, DFA, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Justice, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Department of Interior and Local Governments.
Under the purview of the council are death row cases involving blood money, terrorism, drug-trafficking, human trafficking as well as large-scale illegal recruitment cases involving Filipino workers, and urgent cases involving overseas or their families left behind that require humanitarian assistance with appropriate recommendations for the consideration of the Office of the President.
The bill also seeks to mandate the establishment of One-Stop Migrant Assistance Centers in all major capital towns and cities nationwide to ensure prompt, efficient, vital and relevant services to migrant Filipinos and their families to include passport and authentication services, acquisition of government clearances and permits, validation of overseas job offers, reintegration services and all pertinent seminars and workshops for all stakeholders.
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