House okays creation of proposed agency on OFWs

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    THE House of Representatives yesterday approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to create the Department of Filipino Overseas and Foreign Employment, a priority measure of the Duterte administration.

    Lawmakers voted 173-11 in favor of House Bill 5832 which creates the new department whose primary task is to protect the rights and promote the welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

    The substitute bill consolidated 39 bills topped by House Bill No. 2 of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

    Section 23 of the bill states that the amount needed for the initial implementation of the proposed measure shall be taken from the current year’s appropriations of the agencies, entities, divisions, sections or bodies that will be placed under the new office by virtue of the proposed law.

    The yearly allocation for the new department will subsequently be included in the annual General Appropriations Act.

    Cayetano said the absence of a single agency to address foreign employment concerns has made it difficult for the government to focus on the needs and demands of migration in general and OFWs in particular.

    Under the approved consolidated bill, the Department of Filipino Overseas and Foreign Employment shall be the primary agency responsible for the protection of the rights and promotion of welfare of all Filipinos overseas.

    The department shall formulate, administer, and implement policies and undertake programs to manage and monitor OFWs and overseas Filipinos.

    Primary among the changes proposed and approved during the meeting is the designation of the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) as the core institution under the department. The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) shall function as an attached agency of the POEA.

    Moreover, services abroad shall be expanded to better cater to overseas Filipinos in distress and to establish regional offices.

    A Philippine Representative Office for Overseas Filipinos shall be established in other countries. The office shall be staffed with at least one official to take care of overseas Filipinos problems on-site within that country.