By Hannah Torregoza
Senators today called on the Duterte government to ensure there are enough job placement programs in the country in preparation for the expected influx of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who are bound to return to the Philippines now that the government is bent on imposing a total deployment ban of Filipino domestic helpers in Kuwait.
Senator Cynthia Villar said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) should take advantage of the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program to provide job opportunities for returning OFWs.
“You know, our domestic helpers comprise 80 percent of the problem of our labor department. That’s why I also believe we should stop them from going there. If we have 80 percent of our OFWs returning here, then 80 percent of our problems on our OFWs would eventually be resolved,” Villar said in a Radio DZBB interview.
“They really have a different culture there. Unlike here, that’s why it’s difficult to deploy domestic helpers in that country,” she said.
Since most of them are women, Villar said they can be trained and be retrained for skills in the construction industry.
“Women can also be welders. I know of one female who graduated in TESDA as a valedictorian in welding,” she said.
“I think welding skills are also worth a try for women. They can also enjoy higher pay. We have a shortage of welders,” Villar added.
There is also a shortage of manpower in the tourism industry, and returning OFWs can take advantage of it.
“So I really believe, they just need to be trained and retrained so they would be equipped with sufficient skills,” she stressed.
Villar said the deployment ban issued by President Duterte to Kuwait signals the need for the government to reexamine the social costs of labor migration, especially for domestic workers.
“We need to strengthen our own domestic job market and increase the labor participation of women especially those in rural areas. As a woman and as a legislator, I support the President’s decision. The dignity and rights of our domestic workers should always be upheld,” she said.
“I believe that the entire overseas employment program needs to be reviewed because it is more than 40 years old. Much has happened in the global workforce since its inception,” she emphasized.
Villar also extended her deepest sympathies to the family of Joanna Dimafelis whose body was discovered frozen inside a refrigerator in Kuwait.
“Let us use this time to reflect on what we can all do to help our women look for jobs here at home instead of leaving to work as domestic workers especially in the Middle East. They will go where the jobs are, and there are countries that take their contributions and sacrifices for granted,” she said.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, echoed Villar’s call, saying he too supports the government’s thrust to help the country’s OFWs, and called on the Duterte administration to stop sending domestic helpers in Arab countries where policies on migrant workers are problematic.
“Every day, I personally receive cries for help from our families here in the Philippines for their relatives who are being abused abroad. Unfortunately, 100 percent of the reports of abuse and maltreatment of our OFWs emanated from the Middle East especially from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait,” Gatchalian said.
“Moreover, these two countries have very weak policies on the protection of migrant workers leaving each foreign nationality to defend themselves against abusive employers,” he said.
Gatchalian said the protection of OFWs is the primordial concern of the government.
“Thus, we should no longer allow OFWs in countries where we don’t have strong bilateral agreements to protect our OFWs.
“More so, we should no longer send OFWs to countries where mechanisms and laws for the protection of migrant workers are nonexistent,” he stressed.