Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, H.E. Antonio Villamor is currently in Manila attending the 1st Policy Consultation of Heads of Posts. That is the reason why Kakampi-Ksa moved our “Reaching A Hand Forum” to a later date and wait for the arrival of the Ambassador back in the Kingdom.
Reading online news I found one significant outcome of the envoys consultation. The moved to amend The Migrant Workers and Overseas Employment Act of 1995 (R.A.8042) otherwise known as the Magna Carta for Migrant Workers is a very welcome idea. Present provisions of the law are not well defined that needs fine-tuning or amended a long time ago. Our envoys must focus on recommendations that add more teeth to the existing law in relation to the issue of the bilateral agreements to host nations for concrete protection of the migrant workers rights.
As we all knew that R.A. 8042 was an overnight bill of the then Pres. Fidel Ramos for the purpose of covering the worsening diplomatic relations of the country as a result of the campaign to save the life of OFW Flor Contemplacion. The making of the law was without proper consultations to the OFWs thus the export of Filipino labor force is now deregulated, meaning in the hands of private agencies or recruitment agencies with the POEA role as a mere monitoring agency.
Reengineering the said law might give more specific answers to our grievances. Resource Center and its monetary budget should be made available and not be subject to long frustrating procedure prior approval to funds availability. Male runaways in Saudi Arabia must have a permanent shelter or safehouse and be represented with competent local lawyers in their employment related labor cases. Likewise a monetary budget should be on hand in time needed to avail immediate legal services to those OFWs with criminal cases more particularly those OFWs in death rows.
Looking back in Year 2000, during the OFW Summit initiated by OFW Congress-Riyadh made the following proposals amending R.A. 8042:
1) Inclusion of the word “education” in Section 2 – Declaration of Policies, paragraph 9g ) which shall read as follows:
(g)The State recognizes the importance of the possession of skills and adequate education and information on overseas employment. Pursuant to this, the government shall intensify its skills training, education and information dissemination programs and shall establish linkages with the sectors concerned.
2) Redefinition of the term “Illegal Recruitment” to include illegal practices by licensed recruiters.
3) Adding specific prohibited recruitment-related practices.
4) Increasing penalties for illegal recruitment practices.
5) Amended Role of Government Agencies par. b.2
“The OWWA shall, in addition to its present functions, provide the OFWs and their dependents, medical and health care services, social security-type benefits and reintegration package as may be deemed appropriate. The OWWA shall likewise established, under existing laws, manage the welfare fund and utilize the same to provide social, educational and welfare services to the OFWs”.
Sad to say that we don’t need to beg for all of these to happen if political and socio-economic aspect of the OFW scenario have empowered political leadership through OFW representation in Congress – that could formulate laws and related OFW policies and programs.
In the mentioned consultation we welcome the move of the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas urging the head of posts to push for financial literacy of some 10 million Filipino overseas. end – BongA