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Villanueva demands clear position from Duterte's economic team on proposed OFW department

Senate committee on labor chairperson Joel Villanueva on Monday demanded a clear position from the Duterte administration's economic team regarding the creation of new agencies such as the department for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

During the Senate debates on the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021, Senator Sonny Angara read the positions of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and the Department of Finance (DOF).

NEDA stands on the position that there should be cost-benefit analysis before the creation of the new agency and that the proposed law must include an "exit strategy" as the department should not be permanent.

The DOF, meanwhile, expressed "reservations" on the creation of a new office, considering there are proposals on rightsizing government agencies.

The DBM also opined that the creation of this department would affect the cost of the government's personnel services, considering implementation of the Mandanas ruling in fiscal year 2022.

"It's still confusing... I hope it is not too much to ask if it is, number one, urgent and number two, if it is a yes or no. Even the Bible says let your yea be yea and nay be nay," Villanueva said in response.

"We wanted to support the intention of the President... but we are getting mixed signals. I just hope it would be a lot clearer what we need to do," he added.

Further, Villanueva stressed that he has been asking how much would be needed for the creation of the department for OFWs but has not received any response yet.

Angara read another note from Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua and said that "NEDA Secretary is of the view that perhaps, right at this moment, and in the near future, we should focus on COVID response."

The discussion on the creation of this department may be taken up once the country has hurdled the issues brought about by the pandemic, he added.

Meanwhile, the NEDA is in support of the creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience.

"NEDA supports the creation of the DDR... They also point out that if ever there is the creation of this department, they propose that we retain the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council for better coordination of agencies," Angara said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III has previously pointed out the need to rightsize the government agencies first before creating new ones.

The House of Representatives already approved on third reading both the bills for the creation of DDR and the Department of Filipinos Overseas and Foreign Employment earlier this year.—AOL, GMA News