Will the remaining
11-months of the Duterte
administration address the
dilemma faced by land and
sea-based overseas Filipino
workers (OFW) which are the
problems of the decreased
and limited inbound passenger capacity in the country’s
airports and insufficient quarantine facilities for returning
A bill filed by Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, a long-time aide
and closest associate of President Duterte has been languishing in Congress. A
bill that is long overdue.
The Senate Bill 1949, one of the priority measures highlighted by
President Duterte during his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA)
was certified as urgent measure by Malacañang for its immediate enactment into
law, creating an agency, the Department of Overseas Filipinos.
Congress must take a long and hard look at the issues and concerns being
raised by land and sea-based OFW sectors, lamented Senator Go.
A group of 57 licensed manning agencies, the Association of Licensed
Manning Agencies (ALMA) that deploys 160,000 Filipino seafarers on
international sea-going vessels have asked Senator Go to support calls to
upsurge the inbound flight passenger limit and increase of the limited
quarantine facilities used by arriving OFWs, particularly seafarers.
Unlike land-based OFW, seafarers have shorter contracts because of
international maritime laws stop them from being a sea for more than 11 months.
Seafarers have to come home to their families from months of seeing nothing but
water and ports.
“Because of this inbound flight passenger limit, international flights
flying into the country could only offer limited seating. And, to keep up with
their operational expenses, airlines either increase their fares or prioritize
selling the most expensive seats, or simply cancel the flights. Both increase
the costs of crew changes,” stated the position letter of ALMA addressed to
On the issue of the OFW bill, TUCP Party-list Representative Raymond
Democrito C. Mendoza, House Chair, Overseas Workers Affairs, one of the
principal authors, have done his homework. In fact, during deliberations in the
House he was able to request cooperation from his fellow lawmakers for the
enactment of the law as fulfillment of Duterte’s vision.
Indeed, it was an undaunted task because there were 30 similar bills
filed before his committee for the creation of a new government
House Bill 5832 was passed on third and final reading on March 11, days
passed before the first lockdowns were imposed due to health crisis. It was
voted unanimously, 173-11.
It is the House expression of “gratitude” to the immense and valuable
contributions of the OFWs to the country’s foreign exchange earnings, a
Our economy is insulated not because of our direct foreign investments
(FDIs) coming into the country but because of the annual increase of
remittances from land based and sea-based OFWs.
This, amid the economic downturn of the economies worldwide due to the
current pandemic, hardly hit developed countries considered as favorite
destinations of our overseas workers, the sustained improvement in the OFW
remittances point to a strong 2021 finish line.
Nonetheless, the OFWs account an annual foreign exchange earnings of
around US$32 billion dollars, records from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP)
The long overdue bill is about engaging, employing, and enhancing the
dignity of Filipino labor in and out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The OFW bill is
an act of social justice, nothing more, nothing less.