By Manila Times/ Manila
President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law a bill that would create offices for social welfare attaches for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), especially for victims of illegal recruitment.
Republic Act (RA) 11299, which amends RA 8042 or the “Migrant Workers Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995,” was signed by the president on April 17 but was only released to the media yesterday.
“The state shall afford full protection to labour, local and overseas, organised and unorganised, and promote full employment opportunities for all. Towards this end, the state shall provide adequate and timely social, economic and legal services to Filipino migrant workers, especially for workers who are vulnerable to physical, emotional, and psychological stress or abuse,” the law reads.
Under the new law, the department of social welfare and development (DSWD) is mandated to deploy social welfare attaches “in countries with large concentration” of OFWs.
The law state that the social welfare attache will “manage cases of OFWs and other overseas Filipinos in distress needing psychosocial services.”
The attache will also “undertake surveys and prepare official social welfare situationers (refer to a description of a situation or state of affairs) on the OFWs in the area of assignment,” according to the law.
RA 11299 also mandated the attache to “establish a network with overseas-based social welfare agencies and/PR individuals and groups which may be mobilised to assist in the provision of appropriate social services.”
The attache should also “respond to and monitor the resolution of problems and complaints or queries of OFWs and their families,” the law said.
The law also orders the attache to “establish and maintain a databank and documentation of OFWs and their families so that appropriate social welfare services can be more effectively provided.”
The budget for the office will be appropriated under the DSWD while the implementing rules and regulations will be crafted by the same agency, in consultation with the department of foreign affairs, the department of labour and employment, the department of health, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and other stakeholders.
Senator Joel Villanueva, chairman of the committee on labour, employment and human resources development, said there were about 10mn Filipinos in more than 170 countries and about 2.3mn of them are migrant workers.
Despite this huge number, Villanueva lamented that there were only eight social welfare attaches deployed to several parts of the world as of May 2018.
Last week, the president said he was looking to place the recruitment of OFWs under the direct and exclusive control of the government as he called out private agencies over unfair practices and the abuse of migrants.
He also renewed his call for the creation of a department of OFW, which would entail a law to be passed by Congress, by December.
Duterte had vowed to create a full-fledged department that would streamline and simplify the bureaucratic requirements for Filipino workers aspiring to work or already working abroad.
Bills seeking to create an OFW department did not pass in the 17th Congress although some lawmakers vowed to push for it in the incoming 18th Congress, which opens on July 22.
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