Philippines Names Vice President Adviser for Migrant Workers
Bien Custodio, Arab News
RIYADH, 12 August 2004 — Vice President Noli de Castro was named presidential adviser for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) yesterday, and the supposed beneficiaries and advocacy groups want to know the implications.
“What does this mean? What are the implications of this?” Ellene Sana of the Central for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) asked after President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced de Castro’s new post at a town hall meeting (“pulong bayan”) in Sta. Rosa town, Laguna.
“There will be lot of things to discuss,” said Sana, adding that she received a text message from Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas yesterday saying that de Castro will also supervise Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.
Sana threw these questions to migrant workers in the Internet.
Bong Amora, a community leader in the industrial areas in Riyadh, could not recall of a presidential adviser in the past that was given “significant functions that influence OFW affairs.”
“Though, if he (de Castro) is the right one for the president, then, the first thing for him to do is to study and recommend to the president social welfare benefits such as out-of-work pension plan and possible retirement benefits for OFWs,” said Amora.
Rashid Fabricante, another community leader in Riyadh, advised colleagues to be “pro-active this time,” referring to past advisers who were alleged to have done no significant contributions to OFW affairs.
He wanted to know the scope and duties of a presidential adviser for OFW and community affairs, aside from becoming the “ear of the president.”
“Can he (presidential adviser) influence the appointment of labor attachés, welfare officers, and foreign service officers in line with the recommendations of the Filipino community?” Fabricante added.
As OFW adviser, de Castro will concentrate on the needs of the workers abroad, including their families, according to Arroyo. She said Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas would manage the concerns of the domestic workers.
Robert Sangil of the Saudi Arabian Mining Company in Riyadh was skeptical about the new appointment, saying de Castro has no profound experience and sensitivity to deal with diverse problems confronting OFWs.
“I don’t think he’s going to be tactful and sympathetic to all the troubles OFWs have,” said Sangil, without detailing one.
Hernan Obenita, also in Jeddah, said de Castro was just the right man for the job considering his vast experience as a broadcaster.
Jerome Marana suggested “lighter” responsibilities for de Castro, mentioning that the office of the vice president is already “too overloaded” to attend to the problems and grievances of migrant workers.
“We have more competent personalities who can effectively do the job,” said Marana, preferring OFW party-list representatives who can give better advice as “they were once among us.”
Fritz Arthur Armada, who works in a law firm, said that he would support de Castro 100 percent in his new job “if he will let us know what his definite programs are for OFWs and their families, and his plans on how to achieve such programs.”