By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senators wrapped up Wednesday their interpellation on the
bill creating a department to handle concerns of 10 million overseas
Filipinos, bringing the measure closer to approval in the Senate.
Senator Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Senate labor committee, said
the termination of the period of interpellation and debates “means
we’re entering the last quarter of the game.”
When Congress resumes sessions next month, the bill will be entering
the period of amendments where senators will “further polish and
improve” the bill, he said.
Villanueva described the Department of Migrant Workers and Overseas
Filipinos (DMWOF) bill, which he sponsored and defended
in plenary, as having undergone a “line by line” examination by both
majority and minority senators.
“It is as if the proposed department were a building and senators took
a floor-by-floor, room-by-room review of the blueprint. Ganun po
kasinsin iyon, kasi ganun kahalaga ang departamentong ito sa atin,
lalo na po sa ating mga kababayang OFWs,” Villanueva said.
He explained that the lengthy debates allowed senators to clearly
delineate the roles of the DFA, DOLE, and DMWOF “in order to expedite
onsite assistance to our OFWs and implement preventive interventions.”
“Kailangan po talaga ng klaro na division of labor so these agencies
will work in symphony,” he said.
“Another issue that was subjected to a healthy exchange of ideas was
the protection of OWWA Trust Fund. I believe that the OFW-members of
OWWA should not be funding their own assistance programs, especially in
repatriation during emergencies. Repatriation should be covered by the
general appropriations act, and not sourced from the OWWA Funds,”
He said the debates have provided enough inputs on “how to include
provisions that will make sure that the mandates of the DMWOF will be
Villanueva said work on the bill would continue while Congress is in
recess, particularly harmonizing the provisions to reflect the inputs
and insights are drawn from the debates and discussions. (ai/mtvn)