Overseas Filipino workers (Photo courtesy of OFW Help Facebook)

MANILA – UniTeam standard-bearer Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and his running mate, Sara Duterte, will continue and intensify all programs for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) implemented under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

During the UniTeam’s online miting de avance (advanced meeting) with OFWs on Friday night, Marcos said there is a need for the next administration to properly recognize the contributions of the country’s modern-day heroes.

He said the government should always repay the sacrifices of OFWs.

Kaya kami sa UniTeam, marami kaming iniisip na plano upang bigyan ng mas magandang buhay pa ang ating mga kababayan na nagtatrabaho sa (That’s why the UniTeam has lots of plans to give much better lives for our countrymen working) abroad,” Marcos said.

Meanwhile, Sara Duterte said they will establish more one-stop-shop centers for OFWs nationwide.

Kabilang sa kampanya ng UniTeam ang pagpapatuloy sa mga magagandang programa ni Pangulong Duterte, kabilang na dyan ang mahabang listahan ng programang ipinapatupad para sa mga OFW at sa kanilang mga pamilya (Part of the UniTeam campaign is the continuation of President Duterte's programs, including the long list of programs implemented for OFWs and their families),” Sara Duterte said.

The UniTeam will also boost the provision of livelihood training assistance for returning OFWs and their families and livelihood development assistance program for undocumented OFWs.

“And of course, we look forward to the operations of the Department of Migrant Workers,” she said. “Matagal na itong hinintay ng ating mga (This has been long-waited by our) OFWs.”

President Duterte signed Republic Act 11641 in December 2021, creating the Department of Migrant Workers that pushes for a more responsive venue for migrant workers' issues and concerns.

The new agency may start operations by 2023, according to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

“They have a so-called transition period, two years have been given by law for the transition of agencies to the new Department of Migrant Workers and during this transition period, a transition committee will be formed,” POEA chief Bernard Olalia said in a January Laging Handa briefing.

The committee will submit a budget proposal for the department that will be composed of officials from the POEA; Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs from the Department of Foreign Affairs; Philippine Overseas Labor Office, National Reintegration Center for OFWs, and National Maritime Polytechnic, all under the Department of Labor and Employment; and Office of National Social Welfare Attaché from the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Funds assured

UniTeam senatorial candidate Harry Roque similarly assured that if he is elected, he would make sure that the Department of Migrant Workers would have a sufficient budget, staff, and effective implementing rules and regulations.

Roque shared that he also worked abroad twice and her mother was employed outside the country for four years, leaving when he was only 12 years old.

"Hindi ko po naintindihan bakit nagawa ng nanay ko ‘yun hanggang ako po mismo ay nagtrabaho sa abroad. Mas masakit pala sa isang magulang na mawalay sa mga anak (I couldn’t understand at first why she had to leave, until I became an OFW myself. I realized it is harder for parents to leave their children behind),” he said in a news release on Saturday.

Better lives

Sara Duterte said she will personally campaign for a massive livelihood program for Filipinos to stay and work in the Philippines, instead of searching for a better life abroad.

Naniniwala ako na kung mayroon na sapat na trabaho sa ating bansa, mas pipiliin ng mga Pilipino na manatili dito kaysa makipagsapalaran sa ibang bansa (I believe that if there’s enough livelihood in our country, Filipinos will choose to stay here than to take a chance in other countries)," she added.

The outgoing Davao City mayor would likewise push for quality, timely, and better education for Filipino children so that “they can be pushed further to become productive citizens in the country”.

Kakambal ng magandang trabaho ang dekalidad na edukasyon (Quality education and jobs go hand in hand),” she said.

She said she will look into the protection of OFWs wherever they go in the world.

Sisiguraduhin natin na ang lahat ng OFW ay nakakatanggap ng tamang sweldo at benepisyo mula kanilang employer at nabibigyan sila ng proteksyon laban sa abuso (I will make sure that all OFWs are getting the right compensation and benefits from their employers and are provided with protection against abuses),” Sara Duterte said, adding the UniTeam knows their concerns, needs, and feelings.

Marcos and Duterte vowed to push for retraining programs for returning OFWs hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some 1,697,215 Filipinos residing abroad are registered for this year’s elections. Overseas voting will run from April 10 to May 9.

They will vote for national candidates only -- president, vice president, 12 senators, and a party-list group. (PNA)