Press Release
April 13, 2013

Alan Cayetano Takes Listening Tour Online
First Ever Google Hangout A Success

The first ever Google Hangout for a Philippine senatorial candidate was successfully launched last Friday April 12 with Senator Alan Cayetano hanging out with five overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). The Hangout was moderated by ABS-CBN celebrity host Bianca Gonzalez.

Cayetano and Gonzalez had their webcams set up at the Mind Museum in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig but the discussion was with OFWs from Europe, the United States, Asia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

The hangout included Cherry Lyn Zulueta from Japan, Cristina Boston from Paris, Jennifer Matorosa from Taiwan, Reynabel Bataler from Saudi Arabia and Steven Raga from New York.

Bianca started the hangout by explaining the mechanics of the hangout. After this, everyone introduced themselves, including Senator Cayetano. Each OFW was then given the opportunity to ask Cayetano a question and the senator was given 3 minutes to answer each question. Bianca also read a couple of questions that were posted on Facebook before the Hangout ended.

One Stop OFW Shop

The participants shared their experiences working abroad as OFWs as well as the difficulties they face in applying for permits, assistance and in fulfilling other requirements. In response to this, Cayetano itemized his various plans to address these concerns.

One of the concerns raised was the need to line up at the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) when they visit the Philippines just to get an Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC), which eats up a day of their vacation, instead of spending this time with their families. Cayetano agreed that the scrapping of the OEC must be considered, its purpose of monitoring OFWs and its use as proof of the holder's category as an OFW being met anyway by other documents such as the OFW's passport and employment certificate.

The complaint of the participants regarding the long and redundant processes between POEA and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) confirmed the need for Cayetano's proposal of creating a distinct department altogether just focused on OFWs and their concerns.

Cayetano shared that he understood this complaint, having personally lined up at POEA and OWWA in surprise visits last April 5 and April 11 as part of his Listening Tour. He proposed that instead of having OFWs go through several different government agencies just to fulfill their requirements, the government can aid OFWs by coming up with a single unified department focused solely on their needs.

"We need a one-stop shop for OFWs. This department will focus on welfare, training, provision of active employment opportunity search for OFWs. The idea is to have a full time agency for OFWs and foreign employment," he said.

CCT for OFW Businesses

Cayetano also encouraged the participants to invest in the Philippines and to encourage other OFWs to do the same. The senator also reiterated his call for the government to adopt a second-tier of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) for a capital lending system for OFWs. Here, families of OFWs who wish to start their own businesses in the country using remittances from the family member who is an OFW will be able to avail of loans to do so, without having to wait for the OFW to return home.

Cayetano said that doing so would enable OFWs to come home to increased savings and possibly a thriving business that will eliminate the need for these OFWs to return overseas. "Instead, they can just run their businesses and stay with their families permanently. Consequently, this will also help the country generate more jobs for those who need it," he said.

Social Media as Tool

"As part of the bid to extend the reach of our agencies, a social media officer must be put in place to coordinate with OFWs all over the world," Cayetano suggested.

Cayetano noted that both OWWA and POEA have shown great improvement in making the processes needed in deployment easier on OFWs and in launching programs to aid in the improvement of our OFWs lives but an information campaign is constantly needed considering the continuously growing OFW population.

"These agencies have great programs but I see now that what is lacking is a comprehensive information campaign. OFWs should be made aware of what they can demand from the government," he said.

For her part, Bianca said that she would support any information campaign by the government for OFWs. "I think apps and smart phones can really help our OFWs be informed," she said as she reminded the OFWs of the dates of the upcoming voting period for OFWs.

Voting Period

The voting period for OFWs begins today Saturday, April 13 and will run until election day in the Philippines, May 13. OFWs must check with the Philippine embassy or consulate in the country where they are located their specific voting schedules.

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