By Roy Mabasa
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday assured that it will continue to pursue President Rodrigo Duterte’s directives to prioritize the concerns of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) by looking after their welfare and comfort, and improving the agency’s accessibility and services.
“We would like to express our gratitude to our kababayans all over the world, whose tireless toil and sacrifice have helped improved the lives of many of our people back home,” DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in a statement from Hong Kong where he will be joining members of the Filipino community to commemorate the “Month of Overseas Filipinos.”
“We cannot thank them enough for the important role they play in transforming the Philippines into one of the fastest growing economies in the world,” he said.
Cayetano commended the more than 10 million OFWs, noting that the Philippine economy defied expectations and even posted a 6.9 percent growth in the third quarter of the year because of their contribution.
He cited statistics from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas that showed remittance flows remained a major driver of economic growth and accounted for 9.8 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016.
Cayetano added that the DFA will be launching new initiatives in the Philippines and abroad to improve the delivery of consular and other services. “This is the least we could do to repay our kababayans overseas.”
He said the DFA has been working closely with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to improve coordination, especially in responding to requests for assistance from distressed Filipinos abroad.
The DFA chief said he will soon formally present to the President a proposal for the creation of an OFW Cluster that will include the DFA, DOLE and other government agencies, to ensure better coordination on matters involving overseas workers and their families in the Philippines.
“The President is also fulfilling his commitment to support the work of the DFA Office of Migrant Workers Affairs and address concerns of our overseas workers,” Cayetano said.
He said the public can expect a more responsive DFA in addressing the needs of distressed Filipinos abroad after the President increased the budget for Assistance to Nationals (ATN) from P400 million to P1 billion for 2018.