MANILA — The proposal to create a department focused on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) "goes against" the goal of the Duterte administration to repatriate them, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said.
"We have to consider that the final program of our government under President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is to repatriate our overseas Filipino workers," Bello said in a press briefing in Manama, Bahrain on Friday.
"He (Duterte) would like to create more jobs in our country so that there won't be a necessity for our countrymen to go abroad."
About 2.4 million Filipinos were working abroad last year, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Duterte on Thursday said the creation of an OFW department will need the approval of Congress. The proposed department will be separate from the Department of Labor and Employment.
Bello expressed concerns that creating an OFW department "might be institutionalizing the work or relevance" of Filipino expats.
"Our final goal is to bring them back to the country and we can only do that if we give them decent jobs, decent pay," he said.
The six proposals to establish an OFW department, defining its powers and functions are: House Bill 227 authored by Deputy Speaker Eric Singson; House Bill 288 by 1-PACMAN Party-list Representative Michael Romero; House Bill 543 by Pangasinan 3rd District Representative Rose Marie Arenas; House Bill 822 by Bohol 3rd District Representative Arthur Yap ; House Bill 1936 by Las Piñas Representative Mark Villar and House Bill 2334 by Tarlac 1st District Representative Carlos Cojuangco.