Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Monday now is not the time to create a new department for migrant Filipino Workers, adding there is a more urgent need to buy vaccines for the COVID-10 pandemic.
And on Drilon’s motion, the Senate Committee on Labor led by Senator Joel Villanueva deferred the hearing on the proposed new department of migrant workers until the Senate has tackled Senate Bill 244, or the Rightsizing the National Government Act that will address the issue of a bloated bureaucracy.
Earlier, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he would want to see the passage of Senate Bill 244, which he authored, before the Senate further expands the bureaucracy.
Sotto made the statement after Drilon said during the budget deliberations that the bureaucracy was getting bigger to the prejudice of more productive spending on infrastructure, transportation and connectivity programs as the government was spending more on personnel services than on capital outlays.
Drilon said the Philippines must pool its limited resources to buy COVID-19 vaccines.
But Senator Christopher Go said that while the government was financially constrained, this should not stop it from doing its job and looking for better ways to improve and address the plight of migrant workers.
He said migrant workers needed a more responsive mechanism from the government to respond to their needs.
He cited the call of the President to enact a measure that would create a department focused on the ever-growing needs of Filipinos in foreign lands.
He said the President had been steadfast in his position that the Philippines needed a department to address the concerns of Filipinos abroad.
“This is so important to him that he has called for the creation of this department in the last two of his State-of-the-Nation Addresses,” Go said.
Villanueva said the challenge for the proposal was much greater now with the pandemic and the reservation of some of his colleagues in the Senate.
“As chair of the committee, our position remains the same. Our goal is to address the plight of our modern- day heroes to provide them with more and better services,” Villanueva said.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III supported the call of Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles and Go for the creation of this specific department.
In the same hearing, Nograles said the creation of this new department would be a welcome move for the benefit of all migrant Filipino workers and their families.
He said this was a solemn campaign promise of the President.
“The fundamental reason for creating the Department of Overseas Filipinos is to uphold the primordial duty of the state to protect the rights and promote the welfare and interest of our Filipinos overseas,” Nograles said.
Villanueva referred Drilon’s motion to the Rules Committee and suspended the considerations of the other bills.