Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday said Congress should treat as “urgent” the country’s need to provide protection to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
VP Leni said Congress should look into recommendations from various groups on the matter, in light of reports of recent abuses against OFWs, notably that of Joanna Demafelis, a domestic worker in Kuwait whose body was found in a freezer inside an abandoned apartment.
The Philippine government has since issued a deployment ban for all Kuwait-bound OFWs, but the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) has raised the possibility that many of more than 250,000 Filipinos in the said country may want to stay there to continue working.
“Dapat siguro i-treat ito as urgent ng ating mga mambabatas, kasi talagang maraming naghihintay,” she said in her weekly radio show, BISErbisyong LENI, on RMN-DZXL 558. “Maraming makikinabang. Marami iyong, parang, mareresolba nito iyong maraming problema.”
The Vice President likewise reiterated the importance of monitoring cases and reports of abuses against OFWs and making it a primary consideration in deploying workers to other countries.
Moreover, she agreed that OFWs must be “deliberately” given skills training that will widen their employment options.
“Iyong diversification na sinasabi mo, napakahalaga noon kasi mayroon naman tayong TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority)… Napakalaking bagay na gawing very deliberate iyong pagbigay ng training, kasi tama ka—kapag domestic worker na pumunta doon, unang una vulnerable sa abuse, susunod kapag umuwi dito, parang walang skills na employable siya,” she said.
For Sunday’s show, VP Leni and broadcaster Ely Saludar interviewed Susan “Toots” Ople, founder and president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, a non-profit organization that handles labor and migration concerns.
Here, Ople made several recommendations, such as amendments to the Migrant Workers Act, and making sure that the government takes over the cases of OFWs should it order the closure of a recruitment agency involved in illegal acts.
She also underscored the need to ensure that a host country has clear and concrete rules to protect overseas workers, as stated in the law. These include having an existing bilateral agreement, being signatory to international conventions, and having its own laws that protect workers.
In the previous episode, OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac disclosed that the Kuwaiti government has yet to sign the bilateral agreement with the Philippines, which will protect OFWs, particularly household service workers.
The Philippine government has said Kuwaiti officials have committed to expediting the signing of the said deal, amid orders from President Rodrigo Duterte to let the deployment ban stay.