By Mizpah Grace G. Castro
Governor Imee R. Marcos said that the creation of an agency catering to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) is an urgent need of the country, “given the number of OFWs and also the amount of money they contribute to the economy.”
Proposals for a Department of Migration and Development (DMD) began as early as July 2016, a month after President Rodrigo R. Duterte took his oath as the new head of the Republic.
Creation of such a department however began as a legislative initiative as early as the 12th Congress (2001-2004), according to Rep. Virgilio S. Lacson, vice chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Government Reorganization.
Governor Marcos also pointed out that this was a promise of President Duterte.
“Kailangan consistent ang tulong,” she emphasized, saying that assisting Filipinos in landing quality jobs overseas is “the easy part, but when you’re there na and you get in trouble, or you get sick, or you have to be repatriated, or you need legal services, that’s the blasted part.”
House Bill No. 192, which is one of six bills pushing for the creation of such a department, explains that despite the Filipino Diaspora’s growing size, with roughly 10% of the Philippine population residing and working abroad, as well as their significant contributions to the economy, “our migrants find themselves without a real, dedicated ‘home’ in the government bureaucracy.”
“There’s a great deal of opposition,” Governor Marcos said, “ang DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] at DOLE [Department of Labor and Employment], mababawasan sila, mabibiyak sila. Perhaps there’s a way to negotiate it.”
The bill, authored by Rep. Aniceto R. Bertiz III, continues: “The proposed DMD will help ensure that global migration leads not to the breaking up of the Filipino family due to socio-economic pressures, but to the inclusion, growth, and development of a vibrant migrants’ sector as change agents for a brighter, collective future.”
The DMD would function “to serve, protect, and secure the rights and well-being of every Filipino overseas and his or her family at home.”
Ilocos Norte has the most number of OFWs in the country, hence Governor Marcos’ strong concern for their welfare.
Through the years, she has initiated rapid rural development and other strategies to grow the local economy, such as grassroots assistance programs, employment or livelihood assistance, job placement programs, and aggressive promotions for more tourism and investment to enter the province.
With over 60% of Ilocano families receiving or dependent on dollar remittances for sustenance, Governor Marcos aims for a province where “leaving home will simply be another choice” for families and not the sole lifeline to economic stability.—(Mizpah Grace G. Castro, PGIN-CMO)