Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon expressed on Tuesday his concerns regarding the creation of the department for the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
During the organizational meeting of the Senate labor committee and labor officials, Drilon stated that the P19 billion OFW trust fund would only land to the “sticky hands of politicians.”
Sen. Drilon and other senators said that they are puzzled as to why the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) changed its position and now supports President Rodrigo Duterte’s stand on the creation of an OFW department.
“Does the plan to create a separate Department of Overseas Filipino Workers have anything to do with the disposition of the P19 billion trust fund?” former DOLE secretary Drilon asked.
Overseas Workers Welfare (OWWA) Deputy Administrator Vivian Tornea mentioned that the trust fund for the agency is approximately P19.4 billion per year, and then all agencies dealing with OFWs, including OWWA, will be integrated into just one agency.
However, Drilon opposes the proposal as the fund is expected to grow to P40 billion in the next 10 years.
“In the first place, the overseas Filipino workers concept was [a] temporary program because the idea is to bring back all our countrymen and work here… To put up this department is a recognition of the failure of that policy, and abandon that policy of trying to encourage our overseas Filipino workers to come back,” he said.
The trust fund comes from the contribution of OFWs, which is lodged under OWWA and currently administered by a Board of Trustees, consists of heads of finance and budget management departments as well as representatives from the various labor sectors and relevant agencies.
Drilon also explained that OWWA provides a similar fund under the Social Security System and the Government Service Insurance System, which both help the OFWs.
“Whoever will have control of this department being proposed to be created will have in his control [the] P40 billion in 10 years time. It is even beyond the scrutiny of Congress because the Congress delegated to the Board of Trustees the disposition of these public funds contributed by OFWs,” he said.
Drilon also noted that the creation of the department would only admit the government’s failure to bring the OFWs back here in the Philippines and have proper job opportunities to provide for their families.
“By creating a new department, the inevitable conclusion is the DOLE is lacking the abilities to protect the OFWs, which I don’t agree. I know the capability of our bureaucracy at the DOLE. I take exception to that.”
“I will defend the DOLE insofar as their ability to discharge their duties in protecting our OFWs is concerned,” Drilon told Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipinos Abdullah Mama-o who has earlier stated his support to the creation of the OFW department.
Although Drilon sees no point in creating a new department, to promote the welfare of OFWs is still his utmost concern.
“We can improve the current setup to address the challenges confronting our OFWs.”