overseas Filipinos

Duterte certifies Department of Overseas Filipinos bill as urgent

JC Gotinga

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Duterte certifies Department of Overseas Filipinos bill as urgent

OFWs. Returning overseas Filipino workers line up at the Ninoy Aquino Inernational Airport Terminal 2 on August 11, 2020, to return to their provinces after finishing the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Photo by KD Madrilejos/Rappler

The House of Representatives has already passed its version of the bill, while the Senate plans to take up the proposed measure in January 2021

President Rodrigo Duterte has certified as urgent a bill to create a Department of Overseas Filipinos, giving the Senate authority to fast-track the proposed measure’s passage.

The House of Representatives already passed its version of the measure in March, days before the first lockdowns were imposed because of COVID-19.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea notified Senate President Vicente Sotto III of Duterte’s decision in a letter on Tuesday, December 15. Sotto shared the letter with reporters on Wednesday, December 16.

Senate Bill (SB) No. 1949 was filed by Senator Bong Go, Duterte’s closest associate and longtime aide.

The proposed measure aims to consolidate government functions involving Filipinos overseas under one Cabinet agency. Several government agencies currently administer services and programs of overseas Filipinos, including the labor and foreign affairs departments.

Sotto and other senators including Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon earlier expressed apprehensions about “creating new bureaucracies” that tend to bloat and slow down the government’s work.

Instead, Sotto and Drilon were pushing for streamlining or rightsizing the bureaucracy to make it more efficient and less costly.

The certification of urgency from Duterte significantly bolsters the chances of a Department of Overseas Filipinos being legislated.

As Congress is about to go on recess for the holidays starting Thursday, December 17, Sotto said the Senate will take up SB No. 1949 when session resumes in January 2021. – Rappler.com

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JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.