The House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs has underlined the importance of establishing a distinctive social security and retirement system for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). The proposed system, enshrined in House Bill 8574, was passionately advocated for by the Committee Chairperson and KABAYAN Party-list Representative, Ron Salo.
There is an existing Social Security System (SSS) program for OFWs but this type of system also applies to voluntary contributors who are based in the Philippines. It does not cater to their unique needs and situations. The proposed system aims to provide comprehensive social protection for OFWs, including financial support in cases of job loss, disability, or death. It also includes a retirement fund that will ensure the OFWs’ well-being in their old age.
Comprehensive Social Security for OFWs
This proposed system aims to provide extensive social protection for OFWs, ensuring their health and prosperity. It is devised to supply financial aid in times of unemployment, disability, or bereavement, acting as a financial buffer for OFWs and their dependents during trying times. With this, OFWs would be able to secure a retirement fund, guaranteeing them financial stability and protection in their twilight years, and thus, affording them the tranquility and respect they so rightly deserve.
Assistance for Returning OFWs
In the same session, the committee deliberated on the potential aid and benefits for OFWs returning home due to international crises and disasters. Representatives from the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) briefed the committee on their ongoing efforts to attend to the immediate and long-term welfare and livelihood needs of OFWs.
OFWs Aid from Government Action Fund
DMW Office-in-Charge, Atty. Hans Leo Cacdac, revealed that the bulk of OFW assistance is derived from a PHP1.2-billion action fund reserved for legal, medical, and humanitarian support.
Since its distribution in April 2023, the fund has provided assistance to 5,325 beneficiaries, including those affected by the earthquake in Turkey, disasters in Dubai within the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, as well as conflicts in Sudan, Lebanon, and Israel.
Monetary Assistance and Reintegration Support for OFWs
Cacdac further stated that returning OFWs could receive immediate financial assistance of PHP30,000, while conflict-affected OFWs could claim up to PHP50,000.
OWWA Director, Jocelyn Hapal, reported her office’s provision of counseling, skills training, financial and reintegration planning, as well as pre-departure briefing.
Comprehensive Support for OFWs
Hapal said, “On-site, OWWA conducts counseling, and we profile OFW returnees so we have a better understanding of their credentials. This will guide us on what reintegration assistance can be provided”.
OWWA has also established diverse reintegration programs, aid for specialized repatriation cases, special livelihood and educational assistance for surviving family members, and disability and death benefits, among other services.
House Committee’s Diligent Work For OFW Welfare
Previously, Salo disclosed that Speaker Martin Romualdez had instructed his panel to continue their work during the break to deliberate on bills aiming to improve the welfare of OFWs. This directive has become increasingly pertinent considering the repatriation of OFWs due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.
Salo expressed, “As our courageous OFWs return to our homeland, often after enduring various challenges abroad, we believe it is our duty to provide them with comprehensive support and assistance”. He further stated that the House committee would research possible legislation to safeguard OFWs and facilitate their reintegration into society.
This aligns with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration’s programs for OFWs.