Saying overseas Filipino workers (OFW) concerns need to be given more focus, former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday welcomed reports that some presidential candidates have indicated they will prioritize the formation of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) if they are elected into office.
“I’m happy that some presidential candidates said that it’s a priority, kasi actually within two years ‘yan pwedeng itayo,” Cayetano said in a media interview on April 22, 2022.
“During my time as Foreign Affairs Secretary, ang prinioritize ko talaga ay ang OFW. Talagang yung oras ko sa bawat trip sa opisina ay para sa kanila, kaya lang kulang pa rin talaga sa focus eh,” he added.
Cayetano had filed the bill creating the new department as Senator in 2017, and while that did not make it into law, he filed a similar bill in the House of Representatives in 2019. As Speaker, he led the House in passing the measure in March 2020.
The bill aimed to create a Department of Filipinos Overseas and Foreign Employment — a single agency that would focus solely on the concerns of Filipino migrants.
The Senate approved its version on December 14, 2021, and the law was finally signed by the President on December 30, 2021.
Cayetano said while the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) may do their best to help OFWs, the reality is these departments have other concerns.
“Kailangan natin sa OFWs may tumututok talaga sa kanila. So yes, DOLE and DFA try to do their best, pero kailangan mo ng Secretary sa Gabinete at umiikot sa buong mundo, na walang ibang ginawa kung hindi lang yung welfare ng ating mga OFWs,” he said.
Cayetano said the current situation in Shanghai where strict COVID-19 restrictions are making it difficult to help OFWs as well as the Ukraine-Russia conflict make it necessary to have a single department for overseas Filipinos.
“Can you imagine right now, ang DOLE ay abala sa mga walang trabaho dito, ang DFA abala din sa paglilikas ng mga pilipino sa Ukraine, sa problema sa West Philippine Sea, sa United Nations. So makikita mo, kung merong tututok na walang ibang trabaho, mas magiging effective,” he said.