Duterte signs law creating Department of Migrant Workers

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President Rodrigo Duterte has signed bill creating a department devoted only to the issues of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

Duterte signed the Department of Migrant Workers Act into law during a signing ceremony in Malacañang, establishing a completely new government agency committed to overseeing the affairs and defending the rights of millions of abroad Filipino workers (OFWs).

“The establishment of the Department of Migrant Workers happens on the celebration of Rizal Day, when we honor not only the exceptional love for country of Dr. Jose Rizal, but also the patriotism, excellence, courage of our modern-day heroes, including our overseas [Filipinos],” Duterte said Thursday.

Duterte has long urged Congress to pass legislation creating a new OFW department. In March, he declared the bill to be urgent.

The new law aims to transform the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration into the Department of Migrant Workers, which would be in charge of overseeing all programs aimed at preserving the welfare of OFWs.

Republic Act No. 11641, which was certified as an urgent bill in May, will establish the Department of Migrant Workers, which will effectively unite agencies that deal with issues impacting OFWs.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) will act as the organization’s backbone, with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) acting as an affiliated agency.

Some senators have questioned the need for such a department, citing the $1.1 billion start-up cost.

Other agencies’ activities, which are currently under many government ministries and handle various OFW concerns, would be combined and transferred to the new agency.

Meanwhile, OWWA would be absorbed into the Department of Migrant Workers.

The Department of Migrant Workers would be in charge of regulating OFW recruiting, employment, and deployment, as well as conducting investigations and filing cases involving illegal recruitment and human trafficking involving OFWs.

Supporters, on the other hand, pointed out that this move will make it simpler to provide support to migrant workers, in part because of the extra attention it is bound to devote to dealing with the needs of this job sector.