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Go pushes more benefits for OFWs 

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Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go expressed full support to proposed measures that seek to provide credit assistance, as well as benefits and incentives for business investments to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

In his manifestation before the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, Go noted that aside from the medical approaches employed by the government to fight the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, the Legislature must also ensure that the government remains responsive to the other needs of around 11 million OFWs especially during a crisis.

“Both the legislative and executive branches should work together to make government more responsive to the needs of about 10 percent of our population who are abroad. Thus, I express my support for the many bills to be taken up today,” he said.

“Let us, therefore, review eagerly and intently all the legislative measures at hand to improve policies and programs to address their needs at this time. Malaki talaga ang magagawa para sa mga OFWs ng credit assistance program at iba’t ibang incentives para sa mga magtatayo ng negosyo (Providing a credit assistance program and various incentives to invest in business would greatly help our OFWs),” Go said.

Under Senate Bill Nos. 317 and 801, filed by Senators Grace Poe and Ramon Revilla Jr. respectively, OFWs may avail of a PHP 50,000 loan from the Overseas Worker Welfare Administration (OWWA) to defray the living expenses of their family during the first few months of their absence as well as other expenses incurred during his pre-employment, assisting OFWs in saving their hard-earned salaries for a brighter future for their respective families.

On the other hand, SB 566, or the Business Incentives for OFWs Act filed by Senator Nancy Binay, seeks to provide OFW-owned business enterprises with tax incentives and preferential access to financing government financial institutions at lower than market rates among others.

Go said the passage of the bills would complement the services offered by the OFW Bank that was established in 2017 through President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No. 44.

He noted that the OFW Bank offers financial products and services tailored to the requirements of OFWs, and can extend credit to them especially at this time when their jobs abroad are affected and needed other livelihoods here in the Philippines.

“Muli, mag-bayanihan po tayong lahat. Pakinggan natin ang boses ng ating mga kababayan, lalo na yung mga nahihirapan sa panahong ito. Naniniwala po ako na ang mga panukala na ating tatalakayin ngayong araw ay makakatulong sa ating mga kapatid na nasa ibang bansa (Let us all work together. Let’s hear the voices of our countrymen, especially those who are suffering at this time. I believe that the measures we will be tackling today will help our brothers and sisters abroad),” Go said.

Create Dept. of OFW

Meanwhile, Go reiterated his call for the creation of the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW) in view of the difficulties faced by migrant workers amid the worldwide health crisis.

“This public health crisis calls for a change in the way we think about our solutions. I have always believed that the whole-of-government approach is necessary,” he said.

“Right now, our government is having a difficult time in addressing all the concerns of our OFWs because, considering the sheer number of OFWs, we do not have one unified agency that primarily focuses on their affairs and concerns,” Go said.

Among the immediate issues faced by the government is the repatriation of an estimated 150,000 OFWs who have lost their jobs to the pandemic, and the welfare of their families who depend on them, among others.
Aside from these, the psychological stress being experienced by affected OFWs must also be dealt with by the government, the chair of the Senate Committee on Health said.
Go said distressed OFWs are still confused about what government agency they would ask for help.

“Naguguluhan po sila, mukhang kayo rin po (government agencies) ay naguguluhan. Hindi natin napaghandaan itong krisis na ito, itong pandemic. Kaya nga po sana suportahan ninyo ang ating hangarin na ma-streamline ang serbisyong dapat nakukuha ng Overseas Filipinos mula sa ating gobyerno,” he said.

Go clarified however that he is not saying concerned government agencies are not up to the task, only that there should be a single department that will cater solely to the needs of the OFWs.

But since the DOFW measure has yet to be passed, Go urged concerned executive agencies, especially the Department of Labor and Employment, to improve on their inter-agency coordination to effectively respond to the needs of OFWs.

“Sana po ay wag natin silang pabayaan. Hindi dagdag na problema at iisipin ang dapat ibigay sa kanila, kundi mabilis, maayos, at maaasahang serbisyo na may tunay na malasakit,” he said.

“Alam naman po nating lahat na malapit sa puso ni Pangulong Duterte ang OFWs kaya hindi po tayo papayag na mapabayaan lang sila sa oras ng kanilang pangangailangan,” Go said.

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