Speaker Prospero C. Nograles consults with leaders of the various Filipino communities in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who raised, among others, the need for faster facilitation by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration of services relative to OFW Welfare, and licensure renewals by the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC). The Speaker, together with his official delegation composed of Deputy Speaker Simeon Datumanong, Reps. Munir Arbison, Yusop Jikiri, Nur Jaafar and Mujiv Hataman, have assured the OFW leaders that their concerns, including better OFW representation abroad, will be taken into consideration and their suggestions be thoroughly studied. The common sentiment is to strengthen OWWA's programs and be more responsive to the needs of OFWs. Additional OWWA action desks in embassies and consulates are also being pursued. Saudi Arabia is the second home of more than one million Filipinos.
Philippine lawmakers are expected to arrive in Riyadh on November 5, 2009. They are on their working trip to Middle East for a series of consultation meeting with Filipino Community, Philippine Embassy officials and Philippine government agencies overseeing the plight of OFWs.
They are members of the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs (COWA) to conduct congressional hearing among Filipino Community leaders in Riyadh on issues concerning OFW grievances and complains.
However, as of this writing, I haven’t yet heard from fellow community leaders of an invitation from Philippine Embassy/POLO/OWWA to attend such important event. The visiting lawmakers are Representatives Luz Ilagan, Carlos Padilla, and Rufus Rodriquez.
The House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs (COWA) has the jurisdiction to tackle all matters directly and principally relating to policies and programs on the promotion and protection of the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers and their families. The 14th Congress COWA is Chaired by Rep. Manuel Zamora consisting 35 Committee members namely: Five Vice Chairman, Lagman, Edcel, Gatchalian, Rex, Labadlabad, Rosendo and Romulo, Roman. Members of the Majority are Magsaysay, Ma. Milagros,De Guzman, Del , Estrella, Conrado III,Bichara, Al Francis,San Luis, Edgar,Sy-Alvarado, Ma. Victoria,Robes, Arturo,Roman, Herminia,Chong, Glenn,Codilla, Eufrocino Sr.,Alcala, Proceso,Cajayon, Mary Mitzi,Amatong, Rommel,Bonoan-David, Ma. Theresa, Dela Cruz, Jonathan, and Arroyo, Ma. Lourdes. For the Minority are Ilagan, Luzviminda,Villanueva, Emmanuel Joel, and Hataman, Mujiv.
If Philippine Embassy will invite me to the consultation/hearing and be given a chance to talk in front of the Honorable Lady and Gentlemen from the Philippine House of Representative, I will lobby for the immediate approval of House Bill 05649 or Senate Bill 3286 and it should be signed into law before the May 2010 election.
House Bill 05649: “The Standards of Protection and Assistance For Migrant Workers Act” is an act guarantees the protection of the rights of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who are to be deployed only in countries where labor and social laws protecting workers’ rights, adherence to conventions, declarations and resolutions, and bilateral agreements or arrangements are existing and guaranteed. Principal author of the bill is Rep. Manuel Zamora. It was approved on 2nd Reading dated 2009-02-03 and approved on third reading dated 2009-02-04 with the followingvotes Yes = 127, No = 0, Abstain = 0.
The abovementioned bill is a counterpart bill under Senate Bill 3286 known as an “Act amending R.A. No. 8042, otherwise known as the Migrant Workers Act of 1995, as amended, further improving the standard of protection and promotion of the Welfare of Migrant Workers, their Families and Overseas Filipino Workers in Distress and for other purposes.” The legislative status of the bill is for recommendation for approval pending before the “Senate and House Conference Committee” since August 17, 2009.
Above House Bill 05649 is a consolidated bill substituting the following House Bills:
HB00628 – “Establishment of a legal attaché office in every country in the Middle East to provide free legal assistance to Filipino migrant workers in need of legal aid or in crisis or difficult situation”. The bill was authored by Rep. Judy Syjuco.
HB00700 – “Act Setting Higher Standards of Protection of Migrant Workers”. Authored by Rep. Rexlon Gatchalian, the bill prohibits the issuance of a work permit to a country where there is no existent guarantee for the protection of the rights of migrant workers. Bill Status: House agreed to the request for a conference made by the Senate.
HB00769 – “An Act Setting Higher Standards of Protection of Migrant Workers and their Families”. Authored by Rep. Arthur Pingoy, Jr. The proposed bill is an act to institute policies of Overseas Employment and establish higher standards of protection and promotion of the welfare of migrant workers, their families and Overseas Filipinos in distress.
HB04783 – “An Act Improving the Protection of Migrant Workers, amending for the Purpose Section 4 of R.A. No. 8042. The bill was principally authored by Rep. Edgardo Chatto.
HB00699 – “Act Providing for the Selection of Additional Memberships in the Boards of the POEA and the OWWA, amending for such Purpose Republic Act 8042. Authored by Rep. Rexlon Gatchalian.
There are 41 House Bills and Resolutions currently referred to the Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs (COWA) found at Philippine House of Representative official website. Several of this House Bills seek to amend R.A. 8042 known as Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995. These bills are currently on hold pending deliberations and approval by both the House and the Senate.
Relevant House Bills intended for the promotion, welfare and protection of Overseas Filipinos are the following:
NO. HB00819 - Principal author: Rep. Judy Syjuco. The bill provides for the abolition of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and for the transfer of their functions to the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers. Bill Status: Pending with the Committee on GOVERNMENT REORGANIZATION.
NO. HB03115 – Principal Author: Rep. Bienvenido Abante, Jr. “Overseas Domestic Helpers Act”, the bill aims to determine the countries where maltreatment and abuse of overseas Filipino workers is rampant and to ban their development to these countries. Bill Status: Pending with the Committee on OVERSEAS WORKERS AFFAIRS.
NO. HB04310 – Principal author Re. Narciso Santiago III. “Migrant Worker’s Retirement Act of 2008” establishes a retirement fund that shall provide social security protection to OFWs and their beneficiaries for contingencies resulting in loss of income due to inability to find another employment overseas due to old age, disability and/or sickness. Principal Author Rep. Rexlon Gatchalian, co-authored by Rep. Narciso Santiago III, Rep. Arnulfo Go. Bill Status: Pending with the Committee on OVERSEAS WORKERS AFFAIRS.
NO. HB04845 – Principal author: Rep. Narciso Santiago, III. “Left-Behind Households of OFWs Act of 2008″, that seeks the establishment of OFW family centers that shall provide welfare assistance and counseling services to the families left-behind by OFWs. Also directs the OWWA to develop a program for the re-unification and reintegration of returning OFWs. Bill Status: Pending with the Committee on OVERSEAS WORKERS AFFAIRS.
NO. HB05621 – Principal Author: Rep Rufus Rodriguez. “Overseas Contract Workers Insurance Act”, seeks to protect and ensure the welfare of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) by providing them compulsory welfare insurance program in addition to the benefits being provided by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). Bill Status: Pending with the Committee on OVERSEAS WORKERS AFFAIRS.
NO. HB05657 – Principal author: Rep. Satur Ocampo. “An act expanding Legal Services to Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos in Distress”. Seeks to expand the legal assistance the Philippine government presently extends to migrant workers and overseas Filipinos, both documented and undocumented, in distressful situations abroad, particularly those who are incarcerated in the Middle East on account of lack of access to Shariah lawyers and other specific legal concerns. Bill Status: Pending with the Committee on OVERSEAS WORKERS AFFAIRS. *End*
By: Bong Amora
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