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VACCINATE FIRST OFWs, SEAFARERS

THE MARINO Party-List said that there is an urgent need to vaccinate first all Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) especially the seafarers to ensure the continuity of their job abroad.

Rep. Macnell Lusotan said that he and Rep. Sandro Gonzales, both of MARINO Party-List, look forward that very soon, foreign employers will require OFWs the Covid Vaccine Passport.

MARINO Party-List filed House Bill No. 6779 for the immediate vaccination of OFWs which was discussed by the House Committee on Overseas Welfare Affair last Feb. 11, 2021.

A Technical Working Group was created so seafarers and land based OFWs will be included in government priority vaccination through emergency use authorization by vaccine manufacturers.

Lusotan said it is costly to repatriate our OFWs who will get sick abroad than giving them vaccine dosage to prevent them from getting sick. If they will be vaccinated, they will be healthy and immune from Covid-19 during their two-year contract duration. They can go back to work with health protection and safety.

He said the Philippine Government has a budget already to buy vaccines under Bayanihan 2 Act and the General Appropriations Act of 2021.

The Duterte administration has targeted to vaccinate about 70 million of the more than 100 million Filipinos. There will be two dosages for every Filipino. House Bill 6779 is aimed to include OFWs in the prioritization of Filipinos to be vaccinated.

Lusotan said the Department of Health (DOH) based its prioritization from World Health Organization (WHO). The OFWs are in priority list No. 8 and MARINO Party-List wants to elevate it closer to No. 1.

“If there is a delay in vaccinating our OFWs, how can we deploy them to work abroad? The job orders from the different countries have already arrived in recruitment agencies and manning agencies,” Lusotan said.

Lusotan said the OFWs, through their remittances, contributed US$33.5 billion in 2019. Their huge remittances continue even during lockdowns caused by Covid-19 pandemic last year. At P48 per dollar, which is the current foreign exchange rate, the total equivalent is P1.6 trillion.

He said that without this huge contribution, the Philippine economy may partly collapse especially that the country has big foreign debts.

He added that there is a multiplier effect of the US$33.5 billion contribution of OFWs to the Philippine economy

OFWs in Cebu and other parts of the country have savings after buying their family daily needs. Other OFW families use their earnings abroad for home business like food processing where they employ workers.

“So, the OFW families who engaged in home business raked profit and employed people, while their retailers also made profit and employed people. There is a multiplier effect in making additional income,” Lusotan said.

He said the remittance centers also make money and employ people.

He said that a president of a development bank told him that if your money is deposited as savings in the bank, it will multiply nine times. So, every peso or dollar infused in the banking system will become P9 or $9. That is how big the multiplier effect if the OFW money will be placed in the banking system.

Lusotan also said that OFWs have increased the dollar reserves of the Philippines. “We should have dollar reserves so foreign investors who are making business in the country will be confident that they can take their money anytime they will go home because of our foreign exchange reserve.”

During lockdowns last year because of Covid-19, Lusotan said the seafarers continuously worked and earned money, bringing import and export goods to the different countries around the world including the Philippines.

He said that even the seafarers in inter-island vessels, mostly based in Cebu, are the ones moving goods from one province to another.

“If the seafarers will stop working, how can we bring food supply from Mindanao to Cebu or from Cebu to other areas of the country?” Lusotan said.