The Senate buckled down to work again to hammer out the “nitty-gritty” of creating a Department of Overseas Filipinos (DoFil) that won’t be just a change of agency name but one truly empowered to protect and promote the rights and the welfare of millions of migrant Filipino workers.

“This is not just a re-labeling exercise of putting together agencies under one roof and after the lipat-bahay is done, only signage will say it’s a new department,” said Senator Joel Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee hearing the Palace-certified DoFil bill.

“The architectural plan of the DoFil has for its cornerstone the OFW,” Villanueva explained.

“Like building a house, they should be asked about specs and layout that are comfortable to them.”

“They are really the focus of this. And like building a house, they should be asked about specs and layout that are comfortable to them — a user-friendly agency,” the veteran legislator added.

The seasoned lawmaker said in drafting the DoFil charter, the committee is looking into the OFW experience from training to recruitment to reintegration “and take a close look at the problems in each phase of the migration chain”.

“These concerns,” the senator stressed, “can be classified into 5Rs: Red tape, Recruitment, Response to emergencies, Repatriation, and Reintegration.”

He said the DoFil must have the manpower and mandate to address these issues “because if it is not there in the bill, then I fear that what we’re creating is not an agency for OFWs but an agency for bureaucrats”.

“I will be proposing provisions that may look small but its impact on OFWs is big.”

Villanueva said he will be proposing provisions that “may look small but its impact on OFWs is big”.

“This refers to more anti-red tape provisions, online or apply-from-home processing of documents,” he stressed.

“Longer or no expiry of papers and clearances. Our OFWs have only one-month vacations in the Philippines. Instead of bonding with their children, vacation is used up falling in line at offices,” Villanueva said.

He said his committee will also “audit the inventory of resources for OFWs from government offices abroad, to the state of the OWWA Trust Fund”.

“It’s because it’s not ideal to build a new department that has a pretty organizational chart, showy mandate but with no manpower and funds,” Villanueva stressed.

“We should avoid unfunded mandates because a law without funding is a dead law,” he concluded.


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