House eyes better policies for smooth return of OFWs into labor force

By Filane Mikee Cervantes

October 23, 2023, 9:53 pm

<p>File photo</p>

File photo

MANILA – The House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs will ensure exhaustive deliberations on measures involving the reintegration of returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the country, a party-list lawmaker said on Monday.

OFW Party-list Rep. Marissa Magsino said comprehensive public consultations will be held to gather input and insights from various stakeholders and develop plans and policies to better support OFWs.

“We will tap and coordinate with all stakeholders and partners to improve the lives of our OFWs and better serve them," Magsino said.

The consultations, Magsino said, was in line with the marching orders of Speaker Martin Romualdez to ensure that the returning OFWs would have available opportunities in terms of employment and livelihood.

“As modern day heroes, they deserve nothing less than the full support of a country that gained a lot from their remittances. They are a powerful force in our economic recovery, lalo na ‘nung pandemic (specially during pandemic). Their contributions kept us afloat through the economic contraction during the pandemic and, now, as we try to bounce back,” Magsino said.

Magsino said the House panel, headed by Kabayan Party-list Rep. Ron Salo, will tap the private sector to coordinate job vacancies with the concerned government agencies like the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) so that returning OFWs whose skills are matched with vacant positions can be directly referred.

She also stressed that a multi-faceted approach is necessary to address the encompassing various areas of concern of OFWs, including strengthening their labor rights and welfare programs by ensuring that "they are protected and treated fairly in their host countries."

“It is very important to raise their awareness of their rights, to let them know they have access to legal assistance and that they can have improved working conditions. We also have to work hard on OFWs’ education and skills development to enhance their employability and career prospects abroad and upon their return to the country,” Magsino said.

Magsino said the committee will look into ways to strengthen the mental health of OFWs and their families because of the emotional toll of separation, citing enhanced counseling services as an example.

She also suggested that OFWs and their families be provided with resources and training to improve their financial literacy and make informed decisions regarding remittances and investments, as well as healthcare and well-being by providing them with access to affordable health services.

“These measures are our initial response to the sacrifices and challenges that OFWs face in pursuit of better opportunities. The Marcos administration and the House leadership under Speaker Romualdez are doing everything to address their plight and ensure their well-being,” she said.

Salo earlier said he has received instructions from Romualdez for his panel to continue working during the break to deliberate on pending bills that aim to benefit the welfare of OFWs.

"This directive is made more relevant in light of the repatriation of overseas Filipino workers amidst the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. As our brave OFWs return to our homeland, often after enduring various challenges abroad, we believe it is our duty to provide them with comprehensive support and assistance," Salo said.

Salo said the House committee will look into possible legislation to protect OFWs and ensure their better reintegration into society in line with the Marcos administration's programs for them.

The panel will start with a briefing with relevant government agencies such as the DMW, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority on the existing government assistance to OFWs. (PNA)