Promoting the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will continue to be among the priorities of three-term Senator, now Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda to ensure that Filipinos working in foreign countries, which include domestic workers, nurses, professionals, skilled workers, and seafarers, are protected and are assured that they are provided with programs that respond to their needs and their families’.
“The promotion of the welfare of Filipinos abroad is one of the pillars of the country’s foreign policy. We aim to provide better protection for our kababayan abroad because we do not want them to be subjected to inhumane or degrading treatment or any form of abuse,” Legarda said.
“Given the challenges that hardworking Filipinos encounter in foreign countries where their resources and avenues for protection are limited, we should promote much needed reforms to effectively respond to the growing number of OFWs. As legislators, we have the moral obligation to defend the rights of each and every Filipino to decent work, which include decent wages, salaries, benefits and good working conditions,” Legarda added.
Legarda authored and sponsored various laws that advocate for protection of OFWs, among these landmark laws are RA No. 10635 also known as the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), RA No. 10801 or the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Act, and RA No. 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012. During her stint in the Senate as Chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Relations, the former Senator also sponsored various resolutions, including International Labor Organization Convention 189 (Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers) and the Maritime Labor Convention, 2006, which both aim to provide better protection to Filipino workers.
Meanwhile, Legarda, also called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to synergize their efforts to provide adequate assistance to OFWs who were repatriated and remained uncertain of their future due to the abrupt displacement amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Legarda further noted that labor agencies such as Public Employment Service Offices (PESO), which are maintained largely by local government units, should help DOLE in job matching, while the skills training programs of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) must be fully utilized. Whereas, funds from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) must also be used for OFW assistance.
Aside from the free repatriation and quarantine programs, which includes free food and accommodation to OFWs returning home, they also received one-time P10,000 cash assistance under the DOLE Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (DOLE – AKAP) program and one-time P5,000 assistance under the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) both funded under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, which was co-authored by Legarda.
OWWA also launched Project EASE or the Educational Assistance through Scholarship in Emergencies that provides P10,000 per annum to college-level dependents of OWWA member-OFWs whose employment were affected by the pandemic. Moreover, repatriated OFWs are also qualified to avail DOLE – TUPAD, DOLE Pangkabuhayan, and TESDA trainings and scholarships, among many other national government programs that may assist them to start over again.
“More than 400,000 OFWs were repatriated due to the pandemic according to the DFA as of October of this year. While their safety is our main concern in bringing them back to our country, the government has an obligation to help them find employment or support livelihood programs for their reintegration,” Legarda said.
In her 20 years in public service, Legarda supported and initiated programs on jobs creation and livelihood opportunities—employment facilitation, capacity building, rural and emergency employment services under the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), training for work scholarship programs under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), employment facilitation under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), establishment of Negosyo Centers, business management training services, and shared service facilities under the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), support to MSMEs, among many others.
“There must be a concerted effort among the various government agencies concerned to swiftly address the needs of our OFWs. These Filipinos have contributed much in saving our economy and overall development. It is time that we give back to them all the necessary support and assistance that they greatly deserve,” Legarda concluded.