Press Release
March 26, 2011

Legarda: Proper Implementation of Migrant Workers Act, MSME Law Will Help Reintegration of Returning OFWs

As more overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) remain uncertain of their future with the series of unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, Senator Loren Legarda today called on the government to ensure the proper implementation of laws that would help repatriated Filipinos cope with their abrupt displacement.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said that under Republic Act 10022, or the Amended Migrant Workers Act, an emergency repatriation fund for migrant Filipinos must be established, and livelihood programs for returning OFWs must be developed.

"Thousands of our migrant workers had been displaced due to the political unrest in some countries. While their safety is our main concern in bringing them back to our country, the government has an obligation to help them find jobs or support livelihood programs for their reintegration," she explained.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Bahrain and Yemen are currently under alert level 2, which advises Filipinos to restrict their movements but prepare for immediate relocation to safer, pre-designated areas. In Libya, more than 13,000 Filipinos are already out of harm's way; but the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration's (OWWA) official figure of repatriated OFWs as of March 10, 2011 is 7,959, of which 7,549 have availed of the Php10,000 economic relief assistance.

Legarda said that aside from the repatriation and the provision of cash assistance to OFWs, the government must implement RA 10022 together with other laws, such as RA 9501, or the Magna Carta for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Act, that would help in the reintegration of repatriated Filipinos.

RA 9501, which Legarda principally sponsored and authored, strengthens and provides more assistance to MSMEs by requiring lending institutions to allocate at least eight percent (8%) of their total loan portfolio to micro and small businesses. It also provides access to new technologies and regular entrepreneurship training programs for workers as well as a comprehensive development plan that would ensure the viability and growth of MSMEs in the country.

"OFWs must take advantage of this law, in the same way, the government must continue to urge our overseas Filipinos to engage into MSMEs. Furthermore, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) should prioritize the conduct of trainings for repatriated Filipinos to open more job and livelihood opportunities for them," she stressed.

The Senator also said that in light of these recent events that have affected OFWs, the Committee on Foreign Relations will conduct a hearing on Tuesday, March 29, 2011, to look into the efforts being done by the government in providing assistance to overseas Filipinos residing or working in countries facing political turmoil or had been recently hit by disasters.

"We want to know if our laws are being properly implemented to assure the safety of our OFWs. More importantly, we want to see the plans that concerned government agencies have developed and will implement should other emergency situations arise in other countries," Legarda concluded.

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