Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. revived proposals to create a Department of Overseas Filipino Workers to address the problems of Filipinos working abroad and promote their interest.
Marcos aired the proposal in an interview with Susan Katindig in the program “Bantay OCW with Susan K” over Radyo Inquirer.
“Many have suggested, and I agree, that it’s time we have a Department of OFW so we would have a Cabinet Secretary who is dedicated to the task of addressing issues of OFWs,” Marcos said.
Although there are various government agencies that deal with specific OFW concerns, Marcos said they are loosely coordinated. Often, they issue regulations that make life more difficult for OFWs.
Marcos cited the imposition of terminal fees that OFWs have to pay when they make an airline booking, when they are exempt from payment of such fees. Even if OFWs are entitled to a refund, Marcos said that many of them fail to get their money back either because they don’t know about it or because of the complicated refund procedure.
“We need somebody—say the Secretary of the Department of OFW—to coordinate the delivery of services of all these agencies dealing with OFWs, study all the problems of our workers abroad, and find solutions to their problems,” Marcos said.
A separate department for OFWs is necessary because overseas workers have their own unique concerns that pertain only to their sector, said Marcos.
“We have been praising OFWs as our modern day heroes but the government has not done anything practical to significantly improve the way we take care of our OFWs,” Marcos said.
Marcos noted that the fund of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration has ballooned to P14 billion, sourced from the $25 OFWs have to pay for every two-year contract, yet there are no new programs to improve the delivery of services for OFWs.
He said the new department should be able to deliver a comprehensive package of services for OFWs before they leave the country, while they are working abroad, and on their return.
However, Marcos said efforts to push for the creation of a Department of OFW will not prosper without Malacanang’s support.
“We may be able to pass such a measure in Congress but if the President refuses to sign it, it won’t become a law,” Marcos said.
Marcos insisted that OFWs deserve a better treatment from the government. He stressed that during the global economic crisis, the Philippines managed to weather the storm with the help of the OFW remittances.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reported that OFW remittances reached high of $2.2 billion in April 2015. For the first four months of 2015, remittances totalled $8.6 billion.
According to the World Bank, the Philippines is the world's third-largest recipient of remittances after China and India.
“Rest assured that I will continue the work began during my father’s time to provide better support for our OFWs. I will continue pushing for the creation of a department that will take care of your welfare and your interests,” Marcos said.