The Senate on Tuesday approved on third and final reading the bill that seeks to create a separate department to handle all concerns related to overseas Filipino workers.
With 20 affirmative votes, the chamber unanimously passed Senate Bill 2234, which organizes the proposed Department of Migrant Workers. The measure is one of the legislative priorities of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Sen. Joel Villanueva, who sponsored the measure, said the proposed agency wOULD serve as a "dedicated service arm" for 10 million Filipinos overseas who account for 10% of the population and whose remittance make up 12% of the national income.
"This moment is for every Filipino abroad who has sacrificed so much for their family and our beloved country. This bill is a chance to change for the better the way our OFWs, our modern-day heroes, are recruited, repatriated, and reintegrated," he said.
"Kaya't isang malaking pagtanaw ng utang na loob, at isang makabuluhang pamasko para mga OFWs ang pagpasa ngayong araw dito sa Senado ng Department of Migrant Workers bill," he added.
The proposed department will be in charge of all efforts and policies to protect OFWs. With the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration serving as its backbone, the agency will consolidate seven existing offices concerned with OFW affairs. The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration will be its attached agency.
Villanueva said the transfer of these offices under the new department will not be merely "lipat bahay," as the role of each office, based on its strengths, is well clarified under the measure.
Even though the Department of Migrant Workers was created, Villanueva said that it is not the policy of the state to promote overseas employment.
"Naniniwala po tayo na balang-araw--at hindi po tayo mawawalan ng pag-asa--na darating ang panahong hindi na kailangang mag-abroad ng Pilipino at mawalay sa kanyang pamilya para lang mabuhay," he said.