MANILA— President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday signed a law creating the Department of Migrant Workers.
Duterte noted the approval of the OFW department coincided with Rizal Day, “when we honor not only the exceptional love of country of Dr. Jose Rizal, but also the patriotism, excellence, courage of our modern day heroes, including our overseas Filipinos."
The President on Thursday also signed the P5.024-trillion spending plan for next year and extended the availability of the 2021 budget.
"As we mark the signing of the 2022 national budget and other specific laws that will benefit all Filipinos, let us all emulate Rizal’s heroism and courage by serving our country with dedication, integrity, accountability by doing what is right and just for our people," he said in a speech.
Duterte in March sought the speedy passage of the law creating an executive department dedicated solely to the welfare of migrant workers and Filipinos abroad.
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, bill sponsor Sen. Joel Villanueva earlier said.
"Now that the law has been signed, we must continue to press on to ensure the spirit of the law---to provide all the services needed by our OFWs under one roof---is fulfilled down to the last letter. It must be as good as it is advertised," he said in a statement.
"More importantly, the DMW shall also continue to work with other agencies of government to ensure that jobs are created locally, and that migration for work will always be an individual's choice and not a necessity," continued the senator.
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.