MANILA-- Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has recommeded the addition of an Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) cluster in the Cabinet to further improve service for Filipino migrants and their families.

In an interview, Cayetano said one of 2017's highlight for DFA is assisting OFWs. And to continue this, he said creation of a Cabinet cluster on OFWs was proposed.

"I talked to Cabinet Secretary (Jun Evasco) and I already mentioned that to the President,” he said during a press conference on the same day. “We’re proposing the OFW cluster so that everyone who has to do with OFWs and their families can be included in the discussions,” he said.

He also said that the DFA is looking at the possibility of an interagency body that could provide returning Filipinos abroad to find jobs that could fit their expertise easily in the country.

“The interagency on OFWs can get some of our OFWs abroad who want to go back home and use their expertise at the right price and benefits,” he said.

DFA has estimated at least 12.8 million Filipino nationals abroad, including immigrants and permanent residents of other countries.

Aside from the plan to put up another cluster in the cabinet, the Duterte administration has taken initiative in increasing the Assistance to National (ATN) fund to PHP1 billion to further assist distressed Filipinos abroad in 2018.

In its 2016 report, the DFA said at least 16,630 OFWs in distress were assisted and about PHP308.50 million was spent. Beneficiaries of it included ATN recipients, walk-ins and referrals, and those who availed of mass repatriation.

On the other hand, a total of PHP73.28 million was disbursed for legal assistance to 278 Filipinos abroad whose rights need to be defended.

On Dec. 18, the DFA will be holding a ceremonial signing of the "more relaxed" revised guidelines on the ATN and Legal Assistance Fund . (PNA)