Senator-elect Raffy Tulfo on Sunday asked the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Labor and Employment, and the Philippine Overseas Labor and Office (POLO) to improve their services to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“Among the matters, I will scrutinize as the incoming Chair of the Senate Committee on OFWs are the operations of the Philippine Overseas Labor Officers around the world and the efficiency and fairness of passport processing at the DFA,” Tulfo said.
Tulfo noted they have received many complaints and reports recently on distressed OFWs awaiting POLO action while they stay in shelters.
He cited a case involving 49 female OFWs at the POLO shelter in Riyadh. He said they been at the shelter for five to six months. Tulfo said some of the OFWswere abandoned by their employers, while some employers brought them to the shelter.
He also mentioned OFWs with expired contracts were abused, while others have not received their salaries.
“I have asked the POLO and OWWA in Riyadh to make sure these 49 OFWs are back home here in the Philippines by the end of June,” he said.
“We will vigilantly check on the status of Filipinos stranded overseas, their food, personal hygiene needs, and living conditions in the shelters.,” he added.
According to Tulfo, they want swift action on the passports or travel documents of OFWs who want to be repatriated.
“We seek to end their suffering overseas and bring them all back to their families,” he said.
Tulfo added that OFWs who are victims of abuse should have separate facilities where social services can be given.
“Separate them from the others because of the sensitive nature of their circumstances. Yes, this will entail an additional budget which I will push for in the Senate. Renting facilities and hiring social workers would be prioritized in the Middle East,” he said, adding that he will “respect” the judicial process of an OFW’s host country.
“But there must be ample legal support. If the POLO needs a contingent of legal staff then solutions should be applied,” Tulfo said.
He related that all passport processing costs and repatriation expenses should be fully-subsidized or charged against the repatriation funds of the DFA and POLOs.
He said OFWs who do not want to be repatriated because they still want to work in the country where they are stranded can be assisted through accredited institutions or companies overseas that can find work for the distressed OFWs. Service costs should be disbursed from OFW assistance funds.