Press Release
September 7, 2023

Bong Go pushes for enhanced OFW protection against health risks

Senator Christopher "Bong" Go is pushing for stronger government interventions to safeguard the welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), particularly Senate Bill No. 2297, which aims to institutionalize the OFW Hospital in San Fernando City, Pampanga and SBN 2414, also known as the OFW Ward bill.

"These modern-day heroes not only provide for their families but also contribute significantly to the nation's economy," said Go, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography and a member of the Senate Committee on Migrant Workers, as he acknowledged the hardships of OFWs, leaving their homes and families behind to seek better opportunities abroad.

SBN 2297 seeks to enhance healthcare services for OFWs and their families by institutionalizing the existing OFW Hospital and Diagnostic Center. A key feature of the proposed bill is the assurance of necessary funding to support the continued maintenance and operation of the OFW Hospital, as well as providing necessary personnel and equipment.

The hospital, which was a donation from the provincial government of Pampanga, commenced its operations in May 2022. Located on a 1.5-hectare land, the six-storey facility can accommodate 100 beds, primarily intended for the use of OFWs and their eligible dependents. Go accompanied former president Rodrigo Duterte in inspecting the hospital during the same month.

"Ang pagkakaroon ng iisang departamento para sa mga Pilipinong itinuturing nating mga bagong bayani nasaan man sila sa mundo, at ang pagpapatayo ng OFW hospital para sa kanila at kanilang mga pamilya na mayroong Malasakit Center ay iilan lamang sa mga patunay na kapag magtulungan tayo, ang mga pangarap noon ay kayang maisakatuparan na ngayon," Go said.

Republic Act No. 11641 was signed into law by Duterte in December 2022, creating the DMW. The Senate version of the law was authored and co-sponsored by Go. It is a consolidated version of an earlier bill he introduced to establish the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers.

"Ngunit hindi dito natatapos ang ating hangaring mapabuti ang serbisyo para sa kanila. Kaya naman ako ay nagsumite ng Senate Bill No. 2297 na naglalayong i-institutionalize ang OFW Hospital na ito upang magkaroon ng sapat na personnel, kagamitan at pondo para masiguro ang patuloy at pangmatagalang operasyon nito," he explained.

Apart from delivering medical services, the hospital strives to take the lead in research initiatives focused on the prevention, management, and treatment of occupational diseases frequently experienced by OFWs.

On the other hand, SBN 2414, or the OFW Ward bill, mandates the establishment of OFW wards in every Department of Health (DOH)-retained hospital across the country. These wards will be equipped with the necessary facilities and staff to cater specifically to the healthcare needs of OFWs and their dependents.

"Bigyan po natin ng importansya ang ating mga OFWs. Sila po ang ating modern-day heroes. Malaki po ang kontribusyon nila sa ating bayan," said Go previously.

"Malaking tulong sa kanila kung magkakaroon ng OFW ward sa mga ospital na dedicated po sa ating mga OFW na nagsasakripisyo para sa kanilang pamilya at para sa ating bayan" he added.

This approach, according to Go, recognizes that OFWs often have unique healthcare requirements due to the nature of their work and the health risks they may encounter overseas.

The proposed legislation covers all OFWs and their dependents, including land-based OFWs, seafarers, and other sea-based workers. Dependents are defined as parents, legal spouse, legitimate, illegitimate, legitimated, and legally adopted children who are unmarried, not gainfully employed, and not over 18 years old, or those over 18 but incapacitated due to mental or physical defects.

In a moving tribute to the late Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Secretary Susan "Toots" Ople, Go expressed his support for the proposed cancer fund aimed at benefiting OFWs. This initiative, championed by Ople before her untimely passing, underscores the critical need to provide assistance and care to our modern-day heroes battling cancer while working far from home.

Go's manifestation of support aligns with his commitment to the Cancer Assistance Fund (CAF) and underscores the significance of augmenting its allocation, particularly within the context of the 2024 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

During the budget deliberations for the 2023 General Appropriations Act (GAA), Go was instrumental in securing a P500 million allocation for CAF under the Department of Health. Looking ahead to 2024, Go aims to double the current allocation to further strengthen the fund and extend help to more cancer patients. This is in line with the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA), under Republic Act No. 11215, which includes CAF as an essential component.

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