Press Release
July 12, 2011

Cayetano to Palace: Strengthen OFW welfare

Senate minority leader Alan Peter Cayetano urged the government to strengthen the country's support for the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in light of the series of crises currently being faced by our countrymen abroad.

The senator called on the government to exert all diplomatic means to appeal to Saudi Arabia to at least institute a transition phase in the course of enforcing the host country's new 'Saudization' policy.

"If we can send high level emissaries to other countries, like we did in China, then we should also initiate high-level talks between our government and Saudi Arabia to lobby for our 1.2M workers there," he said.

He also suggested that in order to prepare for the return of the displaced OFWs, the Aquino administration must look into providing jobs for them - a task that has not been realized in any of the past administrations.

"We have insufficient programs in the country that provide training for the OFWs or teach them how to put up small to medium-scale businesses. So we end up with many OFWs saving up abroad only to come back to the country to go into common options like starting up a sari-sari store, driving jeepneys or tricycles, etc. When these go bust, they end up going abroad again. It's a vicious cycle," he explained.

In this light, Cayetano also called for a higher budget for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and other agencies that deal with the welfare of OFWs.

He pointed out that while numerous crises have been plaguing our OFWs since last year, the budget for them has been pared down from P228 million to P136 million.

This budget, he says, is crucial especially in helping out OFWs who are embroiled in legal battles abroad.

"There are some countries, including Saudi Arabia, where in some OFWs face criminal allegations and the budget for legal assistance allotted to them are insufficient. As a result, they cannot get lawyers in these countries to protect them," he said.

The minority leader expressed his desire to see these suggestions applied in the next budget proposals to be presented later this year.

"I hope in the next budget, we will see a draft in support of our OFWs, as well as employment programs, so that when they come home, they can be sure that there will be jobs available to them," he said.

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