House Bill 4408 or an act creating the Department of Overseas Workers, rationalizing the organization and functions of government agencies related to overseas employment, was introduced recently by Bacolod Rep. Anthony Golez Jr. and 3rd District Pangasinan Rep. Ma Rachel Arenas.
The Act will be known as the “Department of Overseas Workers Act.”
Golez said the Commission on Filipinos Overseas reports that as of December 2009, there were 8,579,378 Filipinos overseas, more than half of whom, or about 4,522,438, were temporary workers.
While the United States remains the top destination for permanent residency, the same data reports that one Filipino is a permanent resident of Falkland Islands, and also one in Montenegro in Europe, he said.
And while Saudi Arabia remains the traditional destination for temporary workers, there were 15 Filipinos working in Kyrgyzstan, and 41 Filipinos in the Isle of Man, a little known self-governing dependency of the United Kingdom, he added.
Golez said preliminary data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas show that from January to December 2010, total remittances stood at US$18.763 billion or P846.398 billion, which is 8.68 percent of the country’s gross national product for the same year.
Collorarily, if the overseas remittances were to go to the national coffers, this amount would have funded more than half of the national budget which in 2010, was at P1.54 trillion, he said.
“Despite the significant contributions of our Overseas Filipino Workers over the years, there is no single agency in the government which attends to their needs,” Golez said.
Golez said it is about time for government to realign its resources so the country can be responsive to the needs of its OFW’s.
If there is even just one Filipino who wants to leave any country because he does not feel safe there anymore, then it is the moral duty of the government to bring him to safety, he said.
“It is not enough that we call them the ‘Bagong Bayani’; it is about time that we convert this label into action by creating the Department of Overseas Workers,” he said.*CGS