(PPD photo)

MANILA – A lawmaker on Friday urged the secretary of the newly-created Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) to immediately set up an online database system to track and deliver timely legal and welfare services to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

In a statement, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte said DMW Secretary Abdullah Derupong Mama-o the new department should provide legal aid and other necessary assistance to distressed OFWs, especially those affected by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict and the latest surge of Covid-19 in Hong Kong.

"The DMW’s online database will encourage and enhance information and resource sharing among related agencies, and will help improve the delivery of services to our OFWs," Villafuerte said.

Villafuerte cited a provision under Republic Act (RA) 11641, which establishes the Agarang Kalinga at Saklolo para sa mga OFWs na Nangangailangan (AKSYON) Fund to finance legal and other forms of assistance to OFWs, separate from the funds managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

The Migrant Workers Office shall be in charge of regularly updating the online database system to facilitate and ensure the delivery of appropriate, timely and effective welfare services to OFWs and their families; facilitate the repatriation of distressed OFWs and their families, including the shipment of remains and personal belongings; provide assistance, legal or otherwise in labor, criminal, immigration and other cases filed by or against OFWs, whether detained or not; and provide appropriate assistance to victims of illegal recruitment and trafficking in persons, kidnapping, hostage victims and other victims of other crimes in cooperation with the DFA.

Meanwhile, Marino Rep. Sandro Gonzales lauded the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) for their efforts to protect and ensure the safety of overseas Filipinos, particularly in repatriating around 247Filipino seafarers onboard different ships in the areas affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

"It is our fervent goal to look after the welfare of our overseas workers, especially our seafarers who are considered the best in the world. We gladly express our support to these government agencies for a job well done," Gonzales said.

According to the DOLE-International Labor Affairs Bureau (DOLE-ILAB), there are 178 land-based OFWs from Ukraine had already been repatriated as of March 12.

The government has also provided much-needed assistance to the affected overseas Filipino workers in various forms including transportation via chartered flights and chartered land transport, food, quarantine facilities, psychosocial counseling and stress debriefing, cash assistance of PHP10,000 each, livelihood assistance of PHP20,000 and educational assistance of PHP20,000.

Meanwhile, on the latest surge of Covid-19 in Hong Kong, DFA Senior Special Assistant Jose Cabrera reported that 314 OFWs had already contracted the virus as of March 20.

The law creating the DMW already took effect in February.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Dec. 31, 2021 signed Republic Act (RA) 11641 also known as “An Act Creating the Department of Migrant Workers” to improve coordination among agencies concerned with OFWs.

The new department would cover both documented and undocumented OFWs and serve as a one-stop-shop from pre-employment, employment to reintegration. (PNA)