By Raymund Antonio
Vice President Leni Robredo strongly believes the “urgent” need for Congress to look into measures that will ensure the protection of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
During her weekly radio show, “BISERbisyong Leni,” Robredo spoke of
recommendations from various groups that need attention from lawmakers to address labor problems faced by Filipino workers abroad.
“Dapat siguro i-treat ito as urgent ng ating mga mambabatas, kasi talagang maraming naghihintay (Our lawmakers should treat this as urgent because many people are really waiting),” she said.
“Maraming makikinabang. Marami iyong, parang, mareresolba nito iyong maraming problema (Several Filipinos will benefit. It looks like it can resolve a lot of problems),” she added.
The Vice President made the suggestion in light of the welfare cases involving the OFWs, the latest of which was that of Joanna Demafelis, a domestic worker whose body was found in a freezer inside an abandoned apartment in Kuwait.
The government already imposed a ban on the deployment of OFWs to the Gulf state following the incident.
She underscored the importance of monitoring labor cases and other forms of abuses against OFWs, noting that it should be a primary consideration in the deployment of Filipino workers abroad.
Robredo 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 (The diversification you are saying is very important because we have) TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority),” she said.
“Kapag domestic worker na pumunta doon, unang una vulnerable sa abuse. Susunod kapag umuwi dito, parang walang skills na employable siya (Once domestic workers go there, first of all they are vulnerable to abuse. Next is when they return here, it seems they have no skills to get employed),” she said.
Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute president Susan Ople, who was a guest in Robredo’s radio show, recommended the amendments to the Migrant Workers Act.
She said the government should take over the labor cases of OFWs when it closed down the recruitment agency involved in illegal activities.
Ople also cited the need to ensure that a host country has clear and concrete rules to protect OFWs and other foreign workers.
Among these are existing bilateral agreement, signatory to international conventions, and laws that will ensure the protection of workers from other countries.