MANILA, Philippines – In light of the recent hostilities that sparked anew in Israel, Senator Manuel Villar reiterated his call for the establishment of an executive department for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“There really should be an agency of government that will work full time [for OFWs], with adequate funds, capabilities, and will not do other things,” Villar, speaking in Filipino, said in an interview during the second OFW and Family Summit at the World Trade Center Thursday.
“There will always be some place in the world where OFWs have problems so we should have an agency just for that. Having an undersecretary for migrant workers is not enough,” he said.
Hostilities broke out in conflict-stricken Israel the previous week killing at least 150 people, including 37 children, reports said. A ceasefire agreement was reached by the Israel government and Islamist group Hamas after Egypt and the United States led the international community in interceding to end the violence.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had recently sent two Rapid Response Teams to Israel to help the estimated 41,000 Filipinos in the region.
DFA Spokesman Raul Hernandez said that 78 Filipinos have so far expressed their intention to leave Israel.
“What is happening in Israel … we already saw in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria,” Villar said, referring to the string of conflicts in the Middle East brought about by widespread protests that affected thousands of OFWs.
“The needs of OFWs is so large that … the DFA and the Department of Labor and Employment [are insufficient]. We have millions of OFWs with different needs … we cannot say the help they are getting is enough,” Villar said.
When asked if a department for OFWs would overlap with the DFA, he said that it would not and would instead improve the efforts of the government in looking after the OFWs all over the world.
“OFWs play a very important role in our lives. There are 10 million already. If there are no remittances from them to our country, our economy will crash,” Villar said.
“They are very important that an undersecretary is not enough. We really need one Cabinet-level secretary,” he said.