Stakeholder consultations underway for legislature creating OFWs department — POEA

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THE DEPARTMENT of Labor and Employment (DoLE) will form a group of experts to further enhance its draft legislation creating a Department of Overseas Filipino Workers, with stakeholder consultations currently underway, labor officials said.

The draft legislation was first submitted to Malacañang nearly two weeks ago.

On Monday, Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Administrator Bernard P. Olalia told BusinessWorld that consultations with OFW groups started last week, adding that Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello has called for the creation of a technical working group to enhance the draft legislation and come up with final recommendations for the proposed measure creating the department.

“We were able to get suggestions and inputs from them and… the Secretary instructed us to form a technical working group composed of all the sectors that participated in the consultation and enhance the draft that we have prepared,” he said.

The TWG will be headed by a labor undersecretary, added Mr. Olalia. Members of the group will include POEA, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and OFW organizations.

Last week, Mr. Bello told reporters that the Palace directed DoLE to submit its recommendations regarding the establishment of the Department of OFWs, a key element of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA). The initial draft was submitted to the Palace on July 19, the week before the SONA.

In a statement Tuesday, DoLE said OFW groups “were given a copy of the proposed bill… and were asked to send their comments and recommendations within two weeks.”

Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute President Susan Ople said in a statement that the government needs to preserve the expertise built up by the current agencies dealing with overseas labor.

“We now have an opportunity to see how we can improve the labor department and the services it can offer. The institutional memory and skills of the workers in the POEA and OWWA should be preserved and considered. If we abolish these agencies, we are wasting valuable years of service of those workers, and who will train these new workers in the department?” she said.

In the bills filed by Senator Christopher Lawrence T. Go and by Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano and Davao City Representative Paolo Z. Duterte, the creation of the Department of OFWs will mean the abolition of POEA, OWWA and other agencies and commissions dealing with OFWs matters. DoLE’s version of the bill retains these agencies. — Gillian M. Cortez