MANILA – The House of Representatives' plenary debates on the sponsorship of the PHP3.5-billion budget proposal of the newly created Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) concluded late on Thursday.
It ended after the interpellation of House Assistant Minority leader and Gabriela party-List Rep. Arlene Brosas, who raised some questions on various important issues.
"What does the government do to help overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia who recently lost their jobs because of the economic crisis that struck this nation in the Middle East?," Brosas asked.
Brosas pointed out that one of OFWs' concerns, which they relayed, was their pending claims over unpaid salaries and benefits, separation pay, as well as contract violations.
Committee on Appropriations Vice Chair and Quezon 2nd District Rep. David "Jay-jay" Suarez, the sponsor of the proposed DMW budget, responded that this matter raised by the interpellator was the reason why the government immediately suspended the sending OFWs to the kingdom.
Suarez said it was Labor Secretary Susan "Toots" Ople who vowed to personally address the problem to make sure that similar incidents would not happen.
Ople, he added, signed a new contract between the Philippine and the Saudi Arabian governments providing for more safeguards in favor of OFWs.
"Ang lupon ng legal ay nakatutok na upang tugunan ang mga kaso at claims ng mga hindi nababayarang mga OFWs (The legal cluster is now focusing on the resolution of cases and claims of OFWs who are yet to get their pay)," Suarez said.
“Some of these have resolutions already. We can give you a detailed report on the individual cases of our OFWs in Saudi Arabia. On a good note, many of them have already been paid,” he added.
The proposed DMW 2023 budget includes Overseas Employment Program with a PHP2.7 billion allocation; Overseas Employment Regulatory Program, PHP155.2 million; Labor Migration Policy and International Cooperation Program, PHP32.3 million; and Maritime Research and Skills Competency Programs, PHP76.8 million.
Deputy Speaker Vincent Franco "Duke" Frasco presided over the plenary debate session.(PNA)