FOLLOWING the proposed P500-million legal assistance fund for overseas Filipino workers by Makabayan bloc in Congress, leading Filipino migrant rights group Migrante said reorientation of all embassy officials and workers abroad should also be necessary.

“We welcome the proposed measure in increasing the legal fund for OFWs in distress. Migrante has been pushing for it every year during the national budget deliberations,” said John Leonard Monterona, the group regional coordinator in Middle East.

In its House Bill 5704 which calls for the P500-million legal assistance fund for OFWs, the Makabayan block said the budget can save more OFW lives.

The bill is also in response to the continued legal problems faced by detained and illegal workers abroad, like in the case of Mary Jane Veloso, an OFW convicted of dug-smuggling in Indonesia.

“But more than the funding, we would like to push for the reorientation of all officials posted abroad to be OFW-centered. I mean above all tasks they have -diplomatic, political, and economic- they should focus on providing assistance to all distress and stranded OFWs abroad where there are large concentration of OFWs,” Monterona said.

Monterona, whose group already had more than 200 member organizations worldwide and 8,000 individual members, urged the government to influence and work with the host government “to pass local social legislation that would guarantee the rights and welfare of all migrant workers.”

“Another, on the long term and strategic call is the development of Philippine economy via genuine implementation of agrarian coupled with the nationalization of basic industries that would absorb the millions of unemployed and underemployed,” said Monterona.

This will help solve the plight of Filipino workers abroad, he added.

“In fact, OFWs’ billion dollar remittances can be a conduit to pump prime the local economy while genuine agrarian reform implementation and nationalization of basic industries are underway.”

Earlier Migrante called on the Philippine government to provide urgent on-site assistance for illegal OFWs in Oman as the host government has offered amnesty program from May 3 to July 30 this year. 

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