SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The House Committee on Appropriations chaired by Rep. Isidro Ungab (3rd District, Davao City) approved on Monday the unnumbered substitute bill creating the Department of Filipinos Overseas and Foreign Employment, principally authored by Speaker Alan Peter "Compañero" Cayetano. In particular, the panel approved the appropriations provisions of the proposed "Department of Filipino Overseas Act of 2019."
Section 23 of the bill states that the amount needed for the initial implementation of the proposed measure shall be taken from the current year's appropriations of the agencies, entities, divisions, sections or bodies subsumed or transferred to the Department by virtue of the proposed Act. Thereafter, such sums, as may be necessary for its continued implementation, shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act.
Also relevant are the bill's provisions on the organizational structure of the envisioned department, separation and retirement benefits for the personnel or affected agencies, and earmarking the proceeds from the documentary stamps accruing from the unavailed exemptions on dollar remittances of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to augment the funding requirement of the Department of Filipinos Overseas and Foreign Employment.
Rep. Mario Vittorio Mariño (5th District, Batangas), sponsored and defended the substitute bill in his capacity as Chairman of the House Committee on Government Reorganization. He said the additional fund to create the Department of Filipinos Overseas and Foreign Employment is estimated at P5 billion.
Mariño said similar measures were previously proposed as far back as the 12th Congress, although none of them had been enacted into law. In the meantime, the need to prioritize and protect overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) has grown steadily. He shared that problems of OFWs range from "physical and sexual abuse resulting in death or permanent disabilities, rude treatment from embassy personnel and fellow countrymen, illegal recruitment or termination of contract, human trafficking, inadequate safety nets for displaced OFWs, lack of representation by the government of the interest and welfare of OFWs and foreign employers that do not acknowledge and implement international labor standards."
"The sob stories are sufficient evidence and justification for an urgent institutional intervention from the government to address the concerns of our overseas Filipino workers, particularly OFWs in distress," Mariño said. According to him, OFW remittances account for a whopping 10 percent of the gross domestic product of the country.
The substitute bill consolidated 39 bills topped by House Bill No. 2 of Speaker Cayetano. The proposal is a priority measure of President Rodrigo Duterte. "It is a fitting response to the lingering clamor of about 10 million OFWs scattered around the world," Mariño said.