By Corina Oliquino                                                                                                  FilAm Star Correspondent

MANILA – In a speech in Quezon City last July 12 for the Araw ng Pasasalamat for OFWs event in Camp Aguinaldo, President Rodrigo Duterte said he is considering the direct and exclusive control of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) recruitment through the government, calling out private agencies over unfair practices and abuse.

“Buong Pilipinas ‘to bawal na ‘yang recruitment diyan sa labas,” Duterte said.

“I have the power to do that because that kind of mechanism of recruiting Filipino workers abroad has been abused and abused and abused at ang mga kababayan ko puro biktima, puro kawawa,” he added.

“Kaya kayong mga recruitment, bilang talaga ang araw niyo. ‘Pag hindi ko kayo nadala sa usapan na maganda, brasuhan tayo,” Duterte said.

“Government supervision and control because what has happened and has been happening is not acceptable to the Filipino now,” the President added, renewing his call for the creation of the OFW Department.

Duterte also promised to create a framework for the proposed department by the second week of August which will include the setting up of police attaches and hospitals for OFWs, with Duterte’s former top aide and now Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go claiming the plan was doable.

“Possible at doable naman po by December po ito urgent,” Go said.

The end for private recruitment agencies?

In a report by GMA News, Labor Sec. Silvestre Bello III last July 13, claimed the plan did not necessarily mean the end for private recruitment agencies, claiming the President only wants stricter regulations on OFW recruitment.

“Tututukan lang nang mabuti ‘yung kanilang mga activities, especially doon sa pagre-recruit,” Bello said.

Bello also said, “Nag-usap din kami ni Sen. Bong after nu’ng meeting ni Duterte. Nagkita kami ni Sen. Bong at sabi ko, ‘Let’s work together and come up with a new law that will not only treat the OFW pati na rin ‘yung labor.’”

“Ang labor kasi, ang dami kasing responsibility pero walang powers,” Bello added, noting reports of recruitment agencies duping hardworking OFWs and not complying with regulations greatly irked the President.

“In fact nga, alam naman natin na…walang placement fee kapag ang overseas worker ay household service worker—’yung dating tinatawag na TA—pero ganu’n pa man, marami pa ring naniningil at sobra-sobra,” Bello said.

“For example, alam nila na bawal magpadala ng mga minors, ‘yung mga less than 23 years old… Pero ang daming nagre-recruit ng less than 23 years old,” Bello added.

In a report by ABS-CBN News, non-government organization specializing in labor migration Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute (Ople Center) head Susan “Toots” Ople told ANC, the planned OFW Department or Senate Bill No. 202 will be “advantageous” as it will give existing agencies the time to “focus on local concerns.”

“I think given the size of the population of Filipino workers overseas, it might be advantageous to have a separate agency because it will give the DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) the chance to focus on the problem and challenges of our local workers,” Susan “Toots” Ople told ANC.

The Senate bill, authored by Sen. Bong Go will streamline and consolidate functions of various executive offices including the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of Foreign Affairs – Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA), Commission on Filipino Overseas, and International Labor Affairs Bureau to handle concerns of OFWs.

“I do hope the framework that the President said will be ready by August can also be presented to us, the stakeholders, so we can weigh in and share our recommendations,” Ople said, noting the government should also consider other countries’ best practices for the creation of the department.

“In other countries there are dedicated offices that already deal with migrant workers so I think we can look at their best practices… It’s not gonna be easy because (it’s) unlike the (other agencie) where the stakeholders are locally-based,” Ople said, noting many OFWs are confused as to which agency they should call home or seek for help.

According to Ople, the new department will be welcomed by OFWs who have grown confused as to which agency they should call their “home.”