Press Release
May 10, 2021

DOFIL Opening Remarks

Maganda at mapagpalang araw po.

[ In Proverbs 24 verse 3, it says "By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established". Continuing in verse 6, "For by wise guidance you can wage your war and in abundance of counselors there is victory." ]

Naniniwala po ako na there's no harm in getting all positions on the table, especially when it comes to a policy issue that will affect the lives of our overseas Filipinos which is 10% of our total population.

That's why we are doing our best to consult as many people as we can including our kababayans abroad. I-report ko lang po na last April 22, we touched base with more than 850 OFWs from 35 countries. And everytime we let our OFWs speak, there are always new issues and concerns that need attention. As a matter of fact, tuloy-tuloy pa rin po ang natatanggap nating mga sulat at position papers dito sa DOFIL.

We are also keeping close tabs on what's happening with our OFWs in the midst of this pandemic. We believe that COVID-19 will continue to impact mobility and migration. Halimbawa, may mga kababayan tayong idinadaing pa rin ang "travel cap" kaya hindi sila makapagpa-rebook ng ticket at makauwi. Imagine, pinipigilan po silang umuwi sa sarili nilang bansa? DOFIL should be designed to address these kinds of situation. Your committee wants to make sure that DOFIL will work now and in the post-COVID-19 world which, as many experts describe, "will be less open, less free, less prosperous, and more competitive" [from Harvard Business Review].

Now, having said that, it seems that we need to pay more attention to repatriation and reintegration of overseas Filipinos. And we are here today because there is one very important aspect that came out in the last hearing last March 18 on the matter on how we can strengthen the OWWA Fund which now stands at around 22 billion pesos [DOFIL Hearing, March 18].

In the course of our hearing, we agreed with our good minority leader and former DOLE Secretary, Senator Frank Drilon, to strengthen the nature of OWWA as a trust fund and look at the possibility of having a social security set-up similar to the SSS which now, by the way, covers all sea-based and land-based OFWs and includes benefits such as retirement, death, disability, sickness and maternity [Compulsary coverage of OFWs is mandated by RA 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018].

Yung sinasabi po ni Senator Drilon, pareho po ng narinig natin sa mga kababayan nating OFWs last April 22. Nag-co-contribute sila sa OWWA pero hindi maliwanag sa kanila ang mga benepisyo or kung may makukuha ba sila para sa kanilang retirement at hospitalization. Marami daw po sa kanila ang wala talagang ipon pag-uwi dahil naipapadala rin nila sa Pilipinas ang sweldo nila kada buwan.

Importanteng tanong po: Paano gagawing permanent social security benefit fund itong OWWA Fund na pag-aari ng ating mga manggagawa? Kung hindi po kasi natin ito poproteksyunan, baka magamit pa sa repatriation services na dapat namang gastusan ng gobyerno at pondohan sa ating GAA.

We are basically in the last leg of our hearing on the DOFIL and again, the reason we called our resource persons today is to guide us in coming up with a system to make OWWA a Trust Fund that Overseas Filipino Workers can look to in terms of retirement, sick leave, and other programs that are essential for the reintegration of our OFWs.

Sabi nga po, mas maraming nag-iisip, mas marami tayong mareresolba. Maraming salamat po. God bless us all.

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