Excess fat? Senators question need to create OFW department
MANILA, Philippines — “Excess fat.”
This remark from a labor official triggered a long discussion on why there is a need to create a separate department that would ensure the protection and welfare of Filipinos overseas.
During a joint briefing of the Senate committees on labor, foreign relations, and finance on Tuesday, DOLE expressed their support for the creation of a new department for Filipinos abroad.
“The constitutional guarantee of giving protection to workers and other Filipinos abroad necessitates the strengthening of a unified government agency to ensure the promotion and protection welfare and rights of Filipinos,” DOLE Undersecretary Claro Arellano read from a prepared statement.
“The [DOLE] is in support of the President’s call for the creation of the new department and supports the improvement on the delivery of government services for overseas Filipinos particularly those in distress and those in crisis for emergency situation,” he added.
But, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon questioned the need for a new department.
“What is wrong with the present set-up that we need an OFW (overseas Filipino workers) department? Let me make it clear, in my view, the concerns of our OFWs is sufficiently responded to by the present bureaucracy unless you tell me this statement is not true,” Drilon asked.
In response, Labor Undersecretary Jacinto Paras said the establishment of a new department would “streamline the bureaucracy.”
“Although it creates a new department, it does not expand the bureaucracy, as a matter of fact, it will even streamline the bureaucracy by consolidating all the agencies that are functioning to serve and safeguard our OFWs,” he said.
Paras added that the proposed new department would become a “one-stop shop” and “might even get rid of excess fat considering that the streamlining of these agencies.”
Aside from the DOLE, there are four more agencies with mandates relative to overseas employment and the concerns of overseas Filipinos namely the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), and the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs (OUMWA) of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
Paras’ “excess fat” remark, however, did not sit well with Drilon as the senator pressed Paras to clarify his answer.
Paras then explained that what he meant by “excess fat” is that government will be able to maximize the “use of all the necessary resources of these people without duplication of functions.”
Drilon then asked Paras what functions within the agencies are being duplicated.
“You already used two standards, first is that it (creation of OFW department) will eliminate excess fats and consistent with that because there are duplication of functions. What are these functions that duplicate each other in all these agencies?” the senator asked to which Paras was not able to directly answer.
Paras said he will submit a detailed report to the committee answering Drilon’s question regarding duplication of functions.
Senators Joel Villanueva and Nancy Binay, chair and vice chair of the Senate labor committee, respectively, were also puzzled by DOLE’s sudden change of heart with regards to the creation of the proposed department.
“The chair and Senator Nancy Binay are talking a while ago about the change of heart of the Department of Labor and Employment because I remember last Congress, there are different views regarding this particular measure,” Villanueva said.
“I’ve attended the committee hearings last Congress, paulit-ulit din ho na sinasabi ng DOLE na hindi sila sang-ayon. Gusto ko lang ho malaman, parang nagugulat ako, nabago ata ng ihip ng hangin,” Binay, meanwhile, said. /muf
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