Bill creating OFW department reaches Senate plenary

The bill creating the Department of Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos (DMWOF) is now up for plenary debates at the Senate. 

This comes after Senator Joel Villanueva, chair of the Senate committee on labor, employment, and human resources development, sponsored Senate Bill (SB) No. 2234 during the session on Tuesday, May 25. 

This measure is among the bills the Senate wants to pass on final reading before the sine die adjournment of Congress in early June.

Senators initially questioned the need to consolidate all government offices related to the concerns of overseas Filipinos (OFs) and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).  

But the legislators finally found consensus on the proposed new agency during a closed-door meeting on Monday, May 24. A total of 19 senators signed the committee report.

The new agency was initially named Department of Overseas Filipinos. 

If passed into law, SB 2234 would turn the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration into the DMWOF, which would be mandated to oversee all policies protecting the welfare of Filipinos abroad. 

The functions of other agencies currently under several government departments handling different concerns of overseas Filipinos would be merged and transferred under DMWOF.

These offices include:

  • National Reintegration Center under the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA)
  • All Philippine Overseas Labor Offices under the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)
  • International Labor Affairs Bureau under DOLE
  • National Maritime Polytechnic under DOLE
  • Office of the Undersecrertary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs under the Department of Foreign Affairs
  • International Social Services Office under the Department of Social Welfare and Development
  • Commission on Filipino Overseas under the Office of the President

OWWA, meanwhile, would become an attached agency of the DMWOF.

In his sponsorship speech, Villanueva said having multiple offices handling the concerns of overseas Filipinos has “drawbacks as shown by the many problems on deployment, on-site assistance, repatriation and reintegration.”

The senator said consolidating all these functions would help streamline the delivery of government assistance to overseas Filipinos in need. 

“[Creating the DMWOF] does not mean a shift to embracing labor export as a policy, but plainly a shift to improve collaborative governance away from the seemingly ‘ad-hoc’ character of services it creates, by having one focal agency accountable and responsible to orchestrate and definitively address the gaps on our treatment of our OFWs  and OFs,” said Villanueva. 

But labor rights group Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa had rejected the proposed OFW department, saying it would "institutionalize" the country's reliance on labor exportation for economic development.

The House of Representatives already approved its own version of the bill creating the Department of Filipinos Overseas and Foreign Employment in March 2020. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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