Undocumented OFWs will get more protection – presidential bets
MANILA, Philippines — Some of the presidential contenders who took part in the second debate organized by the Commission on Elections on Sunday vowed to give more protection to undocumented overseas Filipino workers in Southeast Asia.
They had been asked what they would do to ensure the safety of OFWs in member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that already have conventions and treaties about the issue.
Vice President Leni Robredo said protecting undocumented OFWs remained a big problem because were not covered with the same protection provided to their documented counterparts.
“So we really need to have a thorough program to incentivize the undocumented to appear at our embassies or our consulates to let inform them they are there so that when they have a problem we could help them,” Robredo said in Filipino.
She also raised the need for an agreement on the portability of benefits — that is, allowing OFWs to retain the benefits they would get when they retire — as if they had not left the Philippines.
“‘When they come home here. they should still be entitled to it [the benefits],” Robredo said.
The Philippines would only have to coordinate with the government of the country where the OFWs has been working.
She also vowed to strengthen embassies and consulates, building migrant workers’ offices in every province, “to help not just OFWs but their families left behind.”
Doctor-lawyer Jose Montemayor Jr., meanwhile, stressed the need to emphasize the labor and civil aspects of OFWs “especially since undocumented OFWs are more prone to abuse employers and companies.”
He said that undocumented migrant workers should immediately report to embassies or consulates wherever they maybe so that they could get help in times of crisis or disaster.
“In areas where they really have no place to go, communications nowadays have become easy,” he added.
Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso also vowed to protect both documented and undocumented OFWs — even those working outside of ASEAN. To achieve that, he would enter into bilateral labor agreements with other countries.
Sena. Manny Pacquiao also vowed to ensure the protection of OFWs, referring to their welfare as the “first pillar of foreign policy.”
“There’s the Department of Migrant Workers. There’s the law on the OFW handbook that we passed,” he said.
Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson noted that the law on the establishment of the Department of Migrant Workers was still very new.
“The problem there is that its transition is until 2023, May I just suggest that we accelerate the transition and accelerate the implementation of the law,” he said.
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