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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

Migrant Workers: "We don't need a separate Department; give us jobs back home."

More questions than answers for proposed Department of Overseas Filipinos and Migrant Workers

MANILA – The Administration measure to create a separate department for migrant workers and overseas Filipinos will not answer more important concerns.

Speaking over the weekly Tapatan sa Aristocrat Monday morning, migrant workers leaders from Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong said they desire to return home to be with their immediate families and loved ones especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Liezel Galdo, a coordinator for the Asosasyon ng mga Makabayang Manggagawang Pilipino Overseas, it is dangerous enough to work abroad considering the rising number of COVID-19 cases, worsened further by the new variants.

Gusto na sana naming umuwi subalit wala naming trabahong naghihintay sa amin,” she said. She added job creation could have been the priority rather than organizing a separate Department to attend to them.

Jasmin Ruas, currently Director of the Taiwan-based Domestic Caretaker Union, said should the Department of Overseas Filipinos and Migrant Workers be realized, it may have the same personnel to address their existing problems.

Hong Kong-based Shiela Estrada said what they need is social protection rather than the promises of better government attention for migrant workers. She said she lost close relatives due to COVID-19 but could not do anything as she is based in Hong Kong.

“The creation of this Department will institutionalize overseas work rather than keep families intact in the country,” said Josua Mata, SENTRO secretary-general and co-convenor of the labor coalition NAGKAISA.

He explained the different offices under the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Labor and Employment, among others are doing well. He added in different regional capitals, the one-stop shops have been in existence.

The Philippine Migrant Rights Watch President Carmelita Nuqui said they have registered their opposition to the proposed measure because it will not serve the real interests of overseas Filipino workers.

According to Ellene Sana, Center for Migrants Concerns convenor, she and seafarers’ advocate Atty. Dennis Gorecho attended hearings call by both Houses of Congress and they have asked questions on the necessity for the new Department.

She added the creation of a new department will not solve the problems face by migrant workers.

“If the measure lapses into law, there will be more problems because different government agencies have different obligations, the devil is in the details,” she added.

Atty. Gorecho said the new Department may run into conflict with other international agencies where the Philippines has signed and ratified different conventions.

“At first, we were invited to the hearings but later on, it seems the proponents would rather listen to parties who share their opinion and would not listen to the opposition,” he added. He called on lawmakers not to capitalize on the needs of overseas Filipino workers just to attain “pogi points” and get more votes for the coming national elections.

The Departments of Foreign Affairs and Labor and Employment were also invited along with Ms. Susan Ople of the Ople Policy Center. However, due to possible conflict in schedule they failed to attend. (Melo M. Acuña)

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