Manila, Philippines -Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) around the world raised serious doubt on the real intent of the proposed bill in Philippine Congress creating a Department of Overseas Workers (DOW), according to the Filipino migrant rights group Migrante.

Migrante campaign vs. unnecessary and excessive govt. fees and imposition, and yet with only limited on-site OFWs assistance, welfare programs. Migrante file photo
Migrante campaign vs. unnecessary and excessive govt. fees and imposition, and yet with only limited on-site OFWs assistance, welfare programs. Migrante file photo

House Bill No. 191 was recently filed by Pangasinan representative Rosemarie Arenas that proposes the creation of Department of Overseas Workers (DOW) which will directly handles the deployment and repatriation of OFWs.

“We stand firm against the proposal, referring to HB191, or to any other similar executive or legislative initiatives as its real intent is only to corner the now P15-B OFWs trust fund held in trust to the government care of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA),” said John Leonard Monterona, international coordinator of Migrante in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Monterona added the creation of a separate department for OFWs is only a smokescreen in a bid to transform OWWA into a full blown national government agency (NGA) or a full blown government owned and controlled corporation (GOCC).

“Transforming OWWA, which is a quasi-government corporation fully funded by OFWs membership contribution, into a NGA or GOCC posed a serious dilemma especially on the nature of the OFWs funds held in trust to the government,” Monterona added.

Monterona added OWWA became an adjunct agency to the Department of Labor and Employment with the imposition of OWWA Omnibus Policies, codified policies of OWWA, instituted by former DoLE secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, and thereby controlling OWWA to the point of limiting the delivery of services and programs to OFWs and their dependents.

“Instead of creating a DOW, we reiterate our call for pro-OFWs OWWA charter that would be a product of intensive consultation among OFW OWWA-members; an OWWA charter that will strengthen the agency so that it can fulfill its real mandates and objectives,” Monterona averred.

Monterona suggested that to institutionalize OFWs participation and control over the OFWs trust fund, at least 8 members of OWWA Board of Trustees should be elected at large by OFWs bonafide OWWA-members among their rank, and the heads of DoLE, DFA, DBM, and DoF as ex-officio members.

OWWA should have fiscal autonomy, Monterona suggested, being part of the reform initiatives to be contained in the pro-OFW OWWA charter.