MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte is seeking the speedy passage of a proposed law that will create an executive department dedicated solely to the welfare of migrant workers and Filipinos abroad, Malacañang said on Monday.
Duterte certified as urgent Senate Bill 2234 titled An Act Creating the Department of Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos, "to provide a more efficient, whole-of-government approach to protect the rights and promote the welfare and interest of overseas Filipinos," said his spokesman Harry Roque.
Bills certified as urgent are exempt from a rule requiring lawmakers to study the measure for at least 3 days before voting on it.
The proposed department will address the problems plaguing Filipino migrant workers, including "red tape, recruitment, regulation, response to emergencies, repatriation, and reintegration," said Sen. Joel Villanueva, who sponsored the bill.
"It is not our intention to push for Filipinos leaving their country, home and family just to work abroad," he said last week.
"It is our goal to provide our fellow Filipinos with the necessary and adequate support they need in overcoming the difficult predicaments they encounter overseas; not of their own choice, but as brought about by what has become unavoidable desperate necessity."
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.
Despite the economic slowdown that the pandemic caused, OFWs still managed to send home $33.2 billion last year, equivalent to one-third of the present P4.506 trillion national budget, said Villanueva.
The President's son Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte and Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano co-authored a similar House bill that aims to create an executive department for migrant workers.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who voted against the House bill, said creating a new department would "uselessly balloon the bureaucracy" without addressing the social costs of labor migration.