THE Senate has adopted the House version of the bill calling for the creation of social welfare attachés in countries with high concentrations of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
House Bill No. 8908 amends Republic Act No. 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 and requires the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to deploy social welfare attachés.
With the adoption of the measure, a bicameral conference committee is no longer required, and the measure will be sent directly to the President for signature.
Under the bill, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) will determine which countries will have social welfare attachés.
According to Senator Joel J. Villanueva, chair of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development, there are only eight social welfare attachés deployed around the world as of May 2018. The Philippine Embassies in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Doha, Qatar have social welfare officers to assist OFWs.
The attachés are tasked to manage the cases of OFWs needing psychological services, especially in cases of human trafficking, sexual abuse or maltreatment. The officers should also respond and monitor the problems and complaints of OFWs and their families.
The social welfare attaché is also directed to establish networks with overseas-based social welfare agencies and individuals which may provide assistance to distressed OFWs.
A databank of OFWs and their families will also be maintained by the attaché in order to effectively provide appropriate social services.
The social welfare attaché is also tasked to submit regular reports to the DSWD and DFA and provide recommendations and updates on the situation of OFWs, especially those encountering difficulties in their host country. — Camille A. Aguinaldo