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Bill creating Dep’t of Migrant Workers, Overseas Filipinos reaches Senate plenary

The bill creating the Department of Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos (DMWOF) has reached the Senate plenary on Tuesday.

After several hearings and public consultations, Senate labor and employment committee chairman Joel Villanueva sponsored Senate Bill 2234 on the plenary.

The bill seeks to constitute to Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) as the new DMWOF.

Upon the creation of the said department, the powers of the following agencies will be transferred to DMWOF:

  • The POEA, as created under the Executive Act No. 247 and The Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act, as amended
  • The Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs (OUMWA) of the DFA as provided under The Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act, as amended
  • The Commission on Filipino Overseas (CFO)
  • All Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO) under the [Department of Labor and Employment]
  • The International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB) under the DOLE
  • The National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO) under the [Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration];
  • The National Maritime Polytechnic (NMP) under the DOLE; and
  • The International Social Services Office (ISSO) under the [Department of Social Welfare and Development].

Under SB 2234, the DMWOF will be tasked to formulate, plan, coordinate, promote, administer, and implement policies, and undertake systems for regulating, managing, and monitoring the overseas employment of Filipino workers and reintegration of OFWs and other OFs, while taking into consideration the national development programs formulated by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

The proposed department is likewise mandated to ensure the empowerment and protection of Filipinos working overseas by training them to gain appropriate skills and by ensuring access to continuous training and knowledge development.

Part of its power and function is to regulate the recruitment, employment, and deployment of OFWs; investigate and prosecute illegal recruitment and human trafficking in coordination with the Department of Justice; establish a 24/7 Emergency Response and Action Unit; develop and create an institute for advanced and strategic studies on migration and development, among others.

The DMWOF shall be composed of a secretary, four undersecretaries, and assistant secretaries.

The four offices of the undersecretaries are the following:

  • Office of the Undersecretary for Internal Management and Administration
  • Office of the Undersecretary for Foreign Employment and Welfare Services
  • Office of the Undersecretary for Licensing and Adjudication
  • Office of the Undersecretary for Policy and International Cooperation and Special Overseas Filipino Concerns.

The bill also provides for Agarang Kalinga at Saklolo para sa mga OFW at OFs na Nangangailangan (AKSYON) Fund, which will be used for the Assistance to Nationals (ATN) services.

The bill will also create a Full-Cycle National Reintegration Program, which will cater to both documented and undocumented OFWs and OFs who need economic, social, psychosocial, cultural, including skills certification and recognition of equivalency for effective employment services support.

The OWWA will be attached to the DMWOF for policy and program coordination.

The OWWA Fund will be declared a Provident Trust Fund, which will be used or the retirement, death, and disability benefits of OFWs.

The employees from the absorbed agencies will still enjoy security of tenure in the DMWOF, in accordance with the Republic Act 6656 or the Government Reorganization Law. 

Meanwhile, employees affected by the creation of the new department and separated from service within six months within the effectivity of the law will receive separation benefits.

A congressional oversight committee, composed of six senators and six congressmen, will be created to monitor the implementation of the law.

A mandatory review will also be conducted 10 years after the effectivity of the proposed measure.

The congressional oversight committee may recommend the abolition or maintenance of the department.—AOL, GMA News