Solons briefed today on OFW situation

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    THE House committee on overseas workers affairs will hold a special meeting today, during which lawmakers will be briefed on the situation of Filipino workers in Iraq and other countries in the Middle East in the face of the conflict between Iran and the United States.

    Panel chair Rep. Raymond Democrito Mendoza (TUCP party-list group) will lead the special meeting which will start at 1:30 p.m.

    Also in the agenda of the committee is the case of Jeanelyn Villavende, a domestic worker who was killed allegedly by her employer in Kuwait.

    The committee has invited as resource persons and representatives from Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Budget and Management, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and non-government organizations.

    Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo called on the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to release emergency funds for the livelihood of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) facing repatriation.

    “TESDA has to use its available resources to roll out its livelihood training projects so that our OFWs can have something to rely on as soon as they arrive in the country,” Castelo said in a statement

    President Duterte last week ordered the repatriation of Filipinos working in Iraq after Iran launched a missile attack on Iraqi facilities hosting US-led coalition personnel in retaliation to a US drone strike that killed an Iranian commander.

    Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the situation highlights the need to create a single department that will be tasked to address OFW welfare and concerns.

    Cayetano noted that with more than a million overseas Filipinos working in the entire Middle East, government “needs to have viable contingency plans and long-terms plans to prevent bigger problems later on.”

    He 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 of OFWs in particular.

    The proposed “Department of Filipinos Overseas Act of 2019” received the joint approval of House committees on government reorganization chaired by Rep. Mario Vittorio Mariño (Batangas) and Mendoza in November 2019. The following month, it hurdled the appropriations committee chaired by Rep. Isidro Ungab (Davao City).

    As proposed, a computer-based management information system on Filipinos overseas, particularly on OFWs, shall be established in cooperation with other government agencies.

    There were about 1.26 million Filipinos were working in the Middle East in 2018.