Yasay tells OFWs in Switzerland: no new department for OFWs

BERN, SWITZERLAND (MindaNews / 27 February) —  Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto R. Yasay on Sunday told overseas workers here in Switzerland that he does not favor the creation of a Department for Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW), a campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay met Sunday with Filipino community leaders and Embassy officers led by Ambassador Joselito A. Jimeno at the Philippine Embassy in Bern, Switzerland. Yasay said he does not favor the creation of a Department for Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW) as it would duplicate the functions of other existing agencies. MindaNews photo courtesy of BRADY EVIOTA

Yasay told a gathering of around 100 Filipino community leaders from Switzerland and Liechtenstein at the Philippine Embassy here that a DOFW would only replicate agencies already working on OFW concerns and waste scant government resources for assisting Filipino workers overseas.

“Duplicating the functions of the Department of Foreign Affaris,  the Department of Labor and Employment,  the National Statistics Office and National Bureau of Investigation BI and other agencies working for OFWs will not be in the national interest,” Yasay told the Filipino leaders.

Yasay is in Switzerland to address a regular meeting of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) in Geneva on Monday, February 27.

The government is battling charges of human rights abuses from international human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human rights Watch for its harsh war against illegal drugs.

“If you create a Department of OFWs and Office of Migrant Workers, then you are proceeding on the assumption that migrant workers are there to stay. We might become comfortable with that,” Yasay said.

He said the government is looking at long term solutions on the continued migration of Filipinos abroad like creating jobs locally. “The solution for OFWs is hoping for the success of efforts back home (to create jobs) so they will no longer be forced to look for jobs abroad, ” he said.

He said a trend is developing where overseas Filipino workers are  being assisted to the maximum while other Filipinos who are not lucky to go abroad  continue to be marginalized. “We would like to look at the problem holistically where no one is left behind,” said Yasay.

He also told the leaders here that the government has limited resources for helping and assisting its overseas workers. He created the scenario of 10 OFWs sentenced on death row where blood money to set the workers free amounts to an average of  70 to 100 million pesos for each OFW, “thus quickly depleting the funds for legal assistance for OFWs.”

Duterte during his campaign for the Presidency had repeatedly said he would create a department that will specifically address the concerns of Overseas Filipino Workers.

In his first State of the Nation Address on July 25, 2016, Duterte said: “I may now also ask on Congress to consider drawing up bills consolidating and merging agencies and offices all having to do with Overseas Filipinos to have a department that shall focus on and quickly respond to their problems and concerns.”

Lawmakers are proposing the creation of a DOFW to promote the overall welfare, rights and needs of OFWs, in recognition of the significant contribution of OFWs to national economic progress.

There are an estimated 10, 000 to 15,000 Filipinos in Switzerland being assisted by an embassy here and a consulate in Geneva, and honorary consuls in Zürich and Liechtenstein.  (Brady Eviota for MindaNews)