By Vanne Elaine P. Terrazola
Senator Cynthia Villar on Monday called on the government to review existing mechanisms for Filipino workers bound for the Middle East.
Villar made the appeal in the wake of the Department of Labor of Employment’s (DOLE) order suspending the deployment of oversease Filipino workers (OFWs) to Kuwait, following President Duterte’s directive due to the string of deaths of Filipino women in the country.
While lauding the President’s order as a “wake up call” on the plight of Filipino workers abroad, Villar said the DOLE order only provides a “temporary solution” to the “perennial problem” faced by OFWs.
Villar said the DOLE, as well as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), should take the moratorium as an “opportunity” to look into the plight of OFWs not only in Kuwait, but also in other countries to come up with reforms for their protection.
“The DFA and DOLE should also look into why so many of our domestic workers especially in the Middle East are being deprived of their basic rights and subjected to abuse and exploitation. Let us do everything possible to make sure that they are hired by good employers,” she said.
She also asked how Philippine consulates and embassies are coping with the rising number of Filipinos working abroad.
Citing data gathered by her office, Villar, for example, said OFWs in Kuwait deployed annually increased from 70,098 in 2014, to 109,615 in 2016;but the number of embassy personnel catering to OFWs in Kuwait hardly increased.
“If we leave everything to market forces, then the exodus of our women as domestic workers shall continue while the number of embassy personnel that are able to protect them remain stagnant,” Villar stressed.
Villar said that the government’s 40-year-old overseas employment program “is in dire need of a comprehensive review.”
She also asked for long-term solutions that would encourage OFWs to stay and work in the country.
“I also hope that our economic planners can look at how more women can be absorbed into our labor force so that they no longer need to work abroad as domestic workers,” she appealed.