MANILA – The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on third and final reading a measure creating a department for overseas Filipino workers.
House Bill 5832, which aims to create the Department of Filipinos Overseas and Foreign Employment, was passed with 173 affirmative votes, 11 negative votes and no abstention.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who voted against the bill, said creating a new department will "uselessly balloon the bureaucracy" without addressing the social costs of labor migration.
"HB 5832 merely gives lip service to this national policy by echoing it almost verbatim in its declaration of policy. However, the essence and purpose of the bill are manifestly to convert a hitherto stopgap strategy to a permanent policy encouraging and promoting the export of Filipino manpower, notwithstanding a proffered “sunset” provision which was included to mitigate opposition to the measure even as the so-called “sunset” provision envisions a “sunrise” perpetuation of the Department," he said.
He also said creating an OFW department does not address social costs such as breakdown of relationships between spouses and between parents and children; emotional and psychiatric effects of long-term separation; cycle of economic dependence of members of OFW families; and lack of supervision on children of migrants, among others.
Lagman, likewise, said the projected creation of the new department does not address the reasons why Filipinos work abroad.
House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate echoed Lagman's concerns, saying what migrant Filipinos need is an end to labor export, and not a new department for them.
President Rodrigo Duterte had called for the creation of an OFW department during his fourth State of the Nation Address last year.
Currently, separate government agencies handle OFW affairs, among them the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, and the Department of Foreign Affairs' Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs.
Over 10 million Filipinos are abroad, and the remittances of those who work in other countries and territories are a lifeline to the Philippine economy.
Filipino migrants often grapple with labor issues and recruitment woes while some need legal assistance for alleged involvement in criminal activity.