MANILA — Presidential candidates on Sunday shared their plans to protect the welfare of Filipino migrant workers in the ASEAN region, especially those who are undocumented.
Senator Manny Pacquiao said the country already had measures to protect migrant workers.
"OFW welfare. Protektahan natin. Nandyan naman 'yung Department of Migrant Workers. At 'yung ipinasa nating batas na OFW handbook... We will not allow ourselves to be bullied by other countries," presidential candidate Sen. Manny Pacquiao said.
Vice President Leni Robredo said that beyond the existing measures, the Philippine government should further enourage OFWs to register with Philippine missions abroad so they can be protected.
"Ang pinakaproblema natin is despite the fact na may treaties na pinirmanahan, marami talagang undocumented na hindi nasasaklaw ng protection... Kailangan magkaroon tayo ng masusing programa para ma-incentivize ang mga undocumented OFWs na um-appear sa ating mga embassies," Robredo said.
Doctor and lawyer Jose Montemayor said for their own sake, undocumented migrant OFWs must be reported.
"They are prone to abuse by their employers... Dapat lang 'yung mga undocumented workers mai-report agad 'yan kahit san man sila. Lalo na kung may disaster, crisis, dapat i-report sa embassies natin," Montemayor said.
Robredo also said the government should come up a 'benefits portability' measure that would allow retiring overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to enjoy the benefits they earned in a foreign country.
The incumbent vice president said she had encountered retiring OFWs who were hesitant to come back home because the benefits they earned overseas are not available in the Philippines.
"Yung mga nagre-retire nating OFWs na gusto nang umuwi, ayaw umuwi dahil hindi nila nae-enjoy 'yung mga benefits... Dapat pagtrabahuhan natin na magkaroon ng agreement on portability, portability na 'yung mga benefits, social welfare, mga health benefits, dapat kahit umuwi na sila they could still be entitled to it. Mag-uusap na lang yung 2 gobyerno," Robredo explained.
But Robredo also said the long term solution to labor migration is fixing the economy to make better-paying jobs available.
"Pinaka-target talaga natin dapat na 'yung mga kababayan natin lumalabas na lang ng bansa para magtrabaho by choice, hindi na out of necessity. Magagawa natin yung pag naayos na 'yung ekonomiya para meron silang trabaho dito na magbibigay sa kanila ng buhay na may dignidad para di na sila ma-entice lumabas," she said.
There were some 2.2 million overseas Filipino workers in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced about half a million OFWs to go back home, officials have said.