Sabah Filipinos hope for passage of Bill
Published on: Sunday, June 09, 2019
By: Nikko Fabian

KOTA KINABALU: Filipinos in Sabah who face difficulties getting consular services from their embassy in Kuala Lumpur are excited about the proposed creation of Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW) in the coming Philippine Congress.

With the realisation of DOFW, many believe their torment in updating travel documents, other consular services, including prompt issuance of the necessary papers to pave the way for the return of deportees back home, will be a thing of the past.

Just like fellow OFWs in Malaysia, Ruben Castillo, who hails from Mindanao and an accounting degree holder, said the passage of DOFW will mean that the Manila Government will give more attention to the needs of the Filipino contract workers abroad and their families back home, especially Sabah.

The accounting graduate is confident that President Rodrigo Duterte will approve the Bill because billions of dollars in remittances from OFWs keep the country’s economy afloat.

Castillo recalled that senators-elect Christopher ‘Bong’ Go and Imee Marcos were vocal on the issue during the campaign period in the recently concluded May 13 mid-term national and local elections.

Presently, he said, many OFWs are blurred as to which government agency or department to seek assistance in their problems.

He agreed with Senator Go that there is a growing trend where many distressed OFWs seek help by posting their predicament on Facebook or other social media platforms because they have no idea which agency they should approach for help in their particular situation.

Castillo believed the setting up of DOFW will eventually address the problems of the Embassy. 

These include shortages of manpower, electronic devices, consular paraphernalia and other necessities which are presently hindering the embassy’s efforts in providing sufficient and effective consular services to their countrymen in the host country, especially Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan.

Prior to being Senator-elect, Go noted that while many government agencies provide their respective service to the OFWs, it has the unfortunate effect of making the process more complicated and causing confusion among our “modern day heroes”.

With the creation of DOFW, Go said Filipinos will no longer be confused because they will only go to the department whenever they faced problems.

Go said the creation of a Department of OFW is part of the legislative priorities he would pursue.

“It is similar in concept to the Malasakit Centre, a one-stop shop housing concerned agencies such as DoH, DSWD, PAGCOR and PCSO to make it easier for indigents, vulnerable and disadvantaged patients to get medical and financial assistance from the Government,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, Marcos called on President Rodrigo Duterte to prioritize the creation of a department that would focus on the concerns of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Marcos stressed that many OFWs get into trouble at their workplaces abroad, sometimes incurring severe physical abuse resulting in death.

“There is no government agency solely focused on giving our OFWs the assistance they and their families direly need. Worse, there is no agency directly responsible for putting in place responsive policies that can secure the welfare of our OFWs in the long term,” she said.

Marcos also said the concerns of OFWs “go beyond just deployment” and include repatriation, legal aid, financial literacy, and post-deployment retraining for other jobs, among others.

“There is also the welfare of their families to attend to. We really need a dedicated department to squarely address the needs of our migrant workers. I intend to make this a priority legislative measure to support the President’s initiatives for the OFWs,” Marcos said.

“We cannot afford any more delays in creating a Department of Migration. We need a whole-of-government approach to protect our OFWs and, eventually, reach that point where migration becomes a matter of choice and not a matter of survival for Filipino workers,” she added.

Meanwhile, apart from Go and Marcos who can influence Duterte in signing the Bill into law is Cielito ‘Honeyet’ Avancena, the President’s partner.

Avanceña made an impassioned speech before overseas Filipino workers in Tokyo during the President’s recent visit to Japan.

Honeylet’s speech was so moving many in the audience shed tears.

She recalled the years when she worked as a nurse in the United States and how she endured fatigue and homesickness.


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