MANILA - Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto on Thursday urged the government to deploy more social welfare attachés (SWAs) in countries hosting many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
In a statement, Recto said there were only 7 SWAs serving around 4.3 million OFWs or one social worker for every 623,561 OFWs. He said this was the smallest employee-to-clientele ratio in public service today.
"If 5 more will be deployed this year, the SWA-to-OFW ratio will increase to about 1 to 364,000. Imagine having one doctor or dentist for this number of people," Recto said.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier signed into law a measure creating the Office for Social Welfare Attaché to help OFWs, especially those who are victims of illegal recruitment.
Republic Act 11299 requires the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to deploy SWAs in countries where there are many OFWs.
The social welfare attaché is expected to manage cases of distressed overseas Filipinos, undertake surveys on the situation of OFWs, establish a network of overseas-based social welfare agencies, and monitor the complaints or queries of OFWs and their families.
According to the new law, the new office will prioritize OFWs in need of psychosocial services, especially those who are victims of illegal recruitment or trafficking, rape or sexual abuse, maltreatment and other forms of abuse.
Recto called on the DSWD, which oversees SWAs, to include in its 2020 budget request funds for SWA deployment. He also asked the DSWD "to widen the recruitment for SWAs to include OFWs living in the countries where they will be deployed for as long as they meet the criteria for hiring and pass the qualifying exams."
"Instead of parachuting someone from Manila to alien territory, why not get someone who has long been on the ground, speaks the language, knows the culture, is familiar with the terrain to be navigated, and who is or was an OFW himself?" the senator asked.