At least P2B needed for initial operations of Dep’t of Filipinos Overseas – Salceda
MANILA, Philippines — The government, through taxpayers’ money, will shell-out at least P2 billion to fund the initial operations of the Department of Filipinos Overseas (DFO) once enacted into law, Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda said Tuesday.
The fund, according to Salceda, would be used to establish regional offices and mobilize more labor attaches for the protection of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and migrants.
“By having a single department, we will be able to essentially protect them, support their families, and reintegrate them when they come home,” said the congressman, who led a technical working group meeting on the bill.
Salceda said the House aims to pass the measure on final reading before the year ends, pointing out that this is one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s priority bills.
But Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon earlier warned that the creation of the department would expose the P19-billion OFW trust fund to the “sticky hands of politicians.” The trust fund from OFW contributions was expected to grow to a whopping P40 billion in the next 10 years, he added.
Meanwhile, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has raised its concern over the creation of DFO, according to Salceda.
“Ang NEDA gusto unahin ‘yung [wants to prioritize the] rightsizing before the creation of a new department,” the lawmaker said.
“Ang sabi po ng NEDA sa akin mas gusto nila may isa lang pool tayo ng competent bodies then magkaroon ng interagency council and strengthen it [NEDA representatives told me they prefer an interagency council composed of competent bodies and strengthen it],” he added.
But since the bill is a priority and covers OFWs whose remittances helped propel the country’s economy, Salceda said the creation of the new department was necessary.
Salceda said OFWs’ total remittances in 2018 was $32 billion, and P$8.1 billion for the first quarter of 2019.
Once signed into law, the department will absorb the functions of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and Commission on Filipinos Overseas.
DFO would also plan and implement policies and programs for the welfare of OFWs, even after they return to the Philippines, their families, and all Filipinos abroad or migrants.
Salceda noted that the majority or 57 percent of Filipinos abroad are migrants, while 37 percent are temporary workers, and 7 percent are undocumented. /kga
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