The creation of a separate department for overseas employment should not be considered an additional expense for government but a necessary investment to address the concerns of overseas Filipino workers (OFW’s) who remit billions of pesos every year.

This was the response of the Alliance of Bonafide Recruiters for OFW’s Advancement and Development (ABROAD) to a recent statement by National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Ernesto Pernia, who told the Senate in a briefing that economic managers “did not feel that the creation of a Department of OFW is critically important at this time” despite an appeal by President Rodrigo Duterte to Congress to establish the DOFW to handle OFW matters.

“The overseas employment program could be considered as the single most successful specific anti-poverty program of the government.”

ABROAD Co-convenor Russell Garcia said that their group understands that government funds needed to be prioritized, but that government economic managers should also recognize the importance of safeguarding OFW welfare as “the overseas employment program could be considered as the single most successful specific anti-poverty program of the government.”

Garcia further stressed that “at any given time, we have at least 2.3 million Filipinos working abroad and since it started almost half a century ago, the overseas recruitment industry has helped lift millions of Filipinos out of poverty.  Just last year in fact, our total remittances from overseas Filipino workers have reached $32 billon.”

“That is practically 10 percent of our country’s gross domestic product (GDP), and around half the total budget of the government. Our economic managers in the past have credited OFWs and their remittances for protecting the country against external shocks such as the 2008 global financial crisis; it is only just and right that we take steps to better protect them.”

“The new department may also be designed in part as self-liquidating since it is already earning for itself, like the entire accumulated OWWA fund, which now stands at P18 billion ––funds that come from employers and the recruitment agencies, as well as the OFWs themselves and are purely intended for programs for the benefit of the OFWs,” said Garcia.

“The overseas recruitment industry has helped lift millions of Filipinos out of poverty.”

Garcia also pointed out that last year, the collections of our overseas labor offices worldwide from verifications of overseas employment contracts and for other employment contract-related fees collected by the DFA posts abroad, such as authentication fees, translation and acknowledgement fees, have reached hundreds of millions of pesos.

“This is aside from the millions being collected as fees for the issuance of Overseas Employment Certificates or OECs both by the Philippine Overseas Employment Authority in the Philippines and our overseas labor offices for new deploys, and returning or visiting OFW’s,” added Garcia.

“We  therefore question the logic of the argument that the creation of the DOFW must wait longer because of budgetary constraints. No less than the President has expressed his anger over abuses that continue to be committed against our OFWs, and not taking additional steps to address these will guarantee the same results over and over again.”

The overseas employment program of the Philippines was started in the 70’s with the enactment of the Labor Code or Presidential Decree 442, which utilized private sector agencies’ participation in the recruitment and  placement of workers “in order to harness and maximize the use of private sector resources and initiatives in the development and implementation of a comprehensive employment program.”

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