Roxas presses more teeth in OFW protection

Thursday, August 20, 2009 | posted in , , , | 0 comments

Liberal President Senator Mar Roxas called for stronger government protection for the estimated 10 million Filipinos working abroad, especially against abuse by their employers or host countries.

At the same time, Roxas vowed to press for reforms in government policy involving the deployment of skilled and non-skilled workers to other countries as he noted the growing number of Filipinos overseas and the rising number of OFW-related incidents.
"Naniniwala akong ang pinakamahalaga nating maibibigay sa mga OFW natin ay seguridad. Kailangang bigyan natin ang mga OFW ng sapat na suporta at proteksyon para hindi sila abusuhin kapag nasa abroad na sila (I believe that the best thing we can give to our OFW is security for them. We need to give them all the support and protection so they will be spared abuse when they are abroad)," he said.

The Visayan senator said the government must also reduce the financial burden of Filipino overseas workers by removing the 0.15% Documentary Stamps Tax (DST) on money remittances to the country. It is a "significant financial burden to (OFWs) considering that the country is already experiencing unprecedented highs in food and oil prices," he said.

At the same time, Roxas pushed for the professionalization of the Foreign Service system, which he said would ensure that only the most talented and most qualified are recruited by the government to ensure that our OFWs will get quality assistance from personnel and officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs here and abroad.

He also pressed Malacañang to release the P50 million for the OFW Social Reintegration program that President Arroyo has yet to release to the Department of Labor and Employment. The program provides "balikbayan" OFWs with sufficient knowledge of how to use their savings as well as investment opportunities and other forms of reintegration assistance.

Roxas said the government must ensure that OFWs have access to communication wherever they are to so they can easily call Philippine offices in their areas in cases of employer problems and that free legal services for those facing legal problems are readily available.

He also said pre-departure orientation and preparation seminars should likewise be given to departing OFWs to brief them of their rights and on what they should and could do should they encounter difficulties in their jobs.

But all these reforms, he stressed, could only take place once an activist government – one that cares for and listen to its people – takes over from the current administration, which has consistently shown insensitivity to the plight of its workers abroad.

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Kevin Ray N. Chua is a 19 year-old blogger from Cebu City, Philippines and an IT Student at Cebu Institute of Technology.

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