MANILA — Incoming Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma on Tuesday said he would "make a pitch" to encourage more workers to stay in the Philippines instead of seeking employment abroad under the administration of presumptive President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.
While salaries may be more competitive in other countries, the "separation of family, too much dependence on foreign remittance, spending more than what you are actually earning and not saving for the future" are among issues that have also risen due to overseas employment, said Laguesma.
"I will make my pitch on local employment because while I see foreign employment as providing us needed foreign remittances, I also look at the social costs that go with it," he told ANC's Headstart.
"My mission should be able to promote and create... more employment opportunities so that our workers will have the option really of choosing if they are staying with their families, maybe not with very lucrative salaries, but enjoying and watching the growing up of their children," he added.
Laguesma said he was keen on turning Marcos Jr's "Bayan Babangon Muli" campaign slogan into a "framework of governance" for the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
In 2020, the number of OFWs was pegged at 1.77 million, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). The number is lower than the 2.18 million migrant workers reported in 2019.
Laguesma has yet to craft solutions to entice more Filipinos to work in the Philippines, and how to provide jobs for the OFWs displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said he would coordinate closely with the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) and hold a series of discussions with stakeholders to find solutions to labor issues that are acceptable for both workers and employers.
"DOLE is principally not a job creation organization. Our contribution would be making things simpler for workers and employers to accomplish, we'd like to deliver services promptly and correctly," said Laguesma, whose career in the agency spanned 5 presidencies.
"Gusto ko makita na ang department na magkaroon ng imahe na talagang nagrerespond siya. Maybe kulang ang resources pero the services are there," he said. "Workers and employers are not feeling left out o parang dinideadma lang ba, hindi pinakikinggan."
(I want to see the department have an image of being responsive. It may lack resources, but the services are there. Workers and employers are not feeling left out or snubbed, unheard.)
That will also mean ease of doing business, the incoming secretary said.
"We are contributory to a friendly environment that will encourage existing investors to invest more and probably attract other investors," he said.
"Walang (there is no) magic wand. There must be a balance."