MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte intends to intensify the war against human traffickers and illegal recruiters – a problem he considers as important as drugs.
During his State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 25, Duterte also said he wants to make sure remittances of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are put to good use. Remittances from January to August 2015 reached as much as $16.21 billion (P764 billion).*
The President said he also wants a department for OFWs. Such a department will be able to protect the welfare of OFWs, estimated to number at least 10 million spread around the world in 170 countries. Most of them are concentrated in Saudi Arabia, followed by the United Arab Emirates.
“I am now also asking Congress to consider drawing up bills consolidating and merging agencies and offices having to do with overseas FIlipinos, to have a department that shall focus on and quickly respond to their problems and concerns,” he said in his first SONA.
During the presidential debate last April, Duterte said: “I propose to create one government [agency] only to take care of the OFW. Lahat ng kailangan ng permit, diyan nila kukunin sa administrasyon na ‘yan (All the permits they need, they will get it from that agency). It’s going to be a department to take care of them.”
According to Duterte on Monday, he had asked Labor Secretary Sylvestre Bello III to create a one stop shop for OFWs.
“I asked Secretary Bello, gusto ko he will rent a building [that’s] for overseas [concerns] only. Ilagay na lahat, BIR, lahat ng something to do with clearances with police… in one building may booths lang…Doon lang siya mag-ikot sa isang building… ang Pilipino,” he said.
(I asked Secretary Bello to rent a building that’s for overseas concerns only. Put everything there: BIR, police clearances…in one building with booths. The Filipino will only be going around that one building.)
In a statement released to the media, migrant rights advocate and defeated senatorial candidate Susan Ople welcomed the president’s promises.
“The President has declared war against human traffickers and illegal recruiters. Maraming hindi makakatulog ngayon sa mga nambibiktima sa ating mga OFWs,” she said. (Many of those who prey on OFWs will not be able to sleep now.)
“The OFW sector is also happy to hear that he will be true to his campaign promise to create a separate department for our OFWs and a hi-tech one-stop shop to address their needs. Definitely, President Duterte has a soft spot for the poor, our workers, and our OFWs. We will support his vision all the way,” Ople added.
Signifying some gains in the fight against human trafficking, in June 2016, the United States classified the Philippines as a Tier 1 country in its most recent report: the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. This means that the Philippines fully meets the minimum standards “for the elimination of human trafficking” under the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.
The Philippines is the only Southeast Asian country under Tier 1.
Duterte also said mandatory personal finance education will be offered to Filipino migrant workers and their families. – with Don Kevin Hapal/Rappler.com
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