Senator Imee Marcos said “territorial issues” among government agencies are delaying the Senate’s approval of a new Cabinet-level department devoted to the concerns of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Marcos said an organizational chart of the proposed Department of Overseas Filipinos (DOFil) shows that the current departments of labor and employment, foreign affairs, and social welfare and development were unwilling to give up attached agencies that can be consolidated to avoid redundant positions, reduce government costs, and cut the time, effort and expense of OFWs in availing of government assistance.
“We hear the clamor of our OFWs who are hoping for a one-stop shop, not a merry-go-round of redundant offices in various departments and agencies,” Marcos said.
“There’s a turf war going on, involving mandates and budgets. Senators on both sides of the political fence are willing to approve what President Duterte has certified as urgent, but the DOLE, DFA, and DSWD must be willing to let go of certain attached agencies,” Marcos explained.
Among the agencies that can be consolidated into DOFil, Marcos named the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA), and Labor Affairs Bureau under DOLE; the Office of Migrant Workers’ Affairs and Commission on Filipinos Overseas under DFA; the International Social Services Office under DSWD; and the Office of Muslim Affairs under the Office of the President.
“Consolidation means savings that can solve the lack of funding for an honest-to-goodness OFW repatriation program,” Marcos pointed out.
If establishing DOFil continues to be problematic, Marcos said the POEA can instead be expanded into a National Overseas Employment Authority (NOEA).
“The NOEA will be a less costly option for the government while preserving the institutional knowledge and memory of the POEA – itself a consolidation of the Overseas Employment Development Board, National Seamen Board, and Bureau of Employment Services,” Marcos explained.
“Upgrading the POEA would be more feasible and prudent if the Covid-19 pandemic endures and the country needs to spend more on health and social protection programs,” Marcos added.