Press Release
May 10, 2021


In light of what has transpired today, we are all the more convinced now that we need to look into the OWWA Funds and to ensure that the government is adequately funded to withstand the massive job losses, displacements and continuing repatriation of Filipinos stranded abroad.

I couldn't agree more with Senator Drilon that this "final issue" is worth looking into and we thank him for bringing this to the fore. Our OFWs contribute to the OWWA Fund through their toil, tears and sweat but they don't know what their benefits are. So, kailangan talaga na pagtuunan natin ng pansin yoong information dissemination din.

Kung ang ating DOFIL po ang magiging daan para maproteksyunan ang pondong ipon ng ating mga OFWs, malaking bagay po ito para magtiwala sa tinatayo nating DOFIL ang ating mga kababayan abroad.

We're also delighted with new developments and we trust the words of Cabsec Nograles that there's already a recommendation to the President for the allocation of Php5.2 billion as additional repatriation expense. So, klaro na po hindi na gagalawin ang OWWA Trust Fund. And we also congratulate OWWA for making a firm stand that its trust fund cannot be used in activities like repatriation.

We also thank our OWWA Administrator, Hans Cacdac, for being here physically to give us significant info that we need in finalizing this particular measure at hand.

Kaya gusto po nating makakita ng "Flow Chart" at "Gantt Chart" kung kinakailangan to address, especially yung mga concerns ni Senator Binay, on how to divide the functions of agencies currently handling OFWs and those that will be absorbed by the DOFIL especially as regards to the control of the ATN funds.

Ang pagbuo po ng DOFIL ay isang napakalaking pananagutan sa ating bayan. At niyakap po natin ang pananagutang ito bilang Hepe ng Komite na ipinagkatiwala sa atin ng buong Senado.

Batid po natin na marami ang may gustong tapusin na ito, pero nakita n'yo naman po kung gaano ka-kumplikado ang proposed DOFIL. Lahat po ng mga problema na may kinalaman sa migration policy natin mula 1970s o sa loob ng halos limang dekada ay sinosolusyunan po natin sa pamamagitan ng DOFIL.

But this doesn't mean that current system or the "status quo" is not working. Let's not forget that all our policies in place were crafted amidst conflicts, economic downturns and several epidemics in the past like Ebola, SARS and MERS-CoV. Kumbaga po, tried and tested na po ang current system kaya nga kahit ang DFA ilang beses sinabi sa mga previous hearing natin na "gold standard" ang migration policy ng Pilipinas.

But like most of you in the Executive, I'm also a believer that there's always a room for improvement. But in a pandemic situation where everything is shifting, all these reforms or improvement should be done at the side of caution. The design of DOFIL should meet the country's need of navigating a post-pandemic world that will be challenging to OFWs. By the time the DOFIL will be in full operation, it will be a "changed world". And we are not designing tomorrow's agency on the specs and the needs of yesterday.

Sa ngayon, mayroon pong increase sa demand sa health services, habang bagsak naman ang travel and tourism, which impacts on OFWs in the service sector. Yung cruise ships, grounded. Kaya po sa isang mundong binago ng pandemya, ano dapat ang papel ng DOFIL?

It is in this regard that we want to thank our colleagues, especially, Senator Frank, Senator Nancy, Senator Imee and Senator Francis for helping us scrutinize this bill up to the last letter to ensure that overseas Filipinos will stand to win amid COVID-19 and in a post-pandemic world.

Sa palagay ko po ay klaro naman sa atin ang kasabihan ng mga matatanda: "Ang naglalakad ng matulin, kung matinik ay malalim".

But we've made this bill as inclusive and as widely consulted as possible, and the records will bear us out. Because while there is a clamor to create a separate Department for Overseas Filipinos, there are also apprehensions voiced around time constraints, funding, sustainability, including the fact that we can't afford a "learning curve" at this critical junctures.

It's not our intention to hear the voice of every OFW, because there are 10-million of them scattered in all the continents. But with the more than a thousand that we have consulted, I would say it's a 50/50. Sa isang OFW consultation natin, nagpahayag ang Filipino Domestic Caretaker Union sa Taiwan na kung maaari, gusto nilang mas busisiin pa ang itinatayo nating DOFIL dahil hindi raw po nila makita na ito na ang sagot sa mga problema nila.

We also acknowledge that this is a priority legislation and certified urgent measure of the President and I believe that we're still within timetable. If you recall, during our initial hearing on this measure, we made it clear that we will have at least 4 or 5 hearings to substantially cover all aspects of this new department, primarily recruitment, red tape, response to emergencies, repatriation, reintegration, re-training and resource allocation.

But more than the nitty-gritty details, we also want to fully understand the larger picture: What is the role of worker deployment in our economic agenda and the future of our nation? Shall we remain as mere merchandise in the global labor market? Or should we start harnessing our human resources for our growth?

These questions can't be rushed. And urgency doesn't mean speed or haste. It means working diligently and doing the right thing for the right reasons. Kaya titiyakin po natin na ang ihahain nating Committee Report sa plenaryo ng Senado ay isang panukala na mas magbibigay ng oportunidad sa ating mga kababayang OFW ngayon at sa susunod na henerasyon ng mga Pilipino.

Maraming salamat po. God bless us all.

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