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Legarda: Protection of OFWs Starts with Getting Our Acts Together

November 5, 2011

Senator Loren Legarda called on agencies of the government to get their acts together in pursuing the mandate to protect overseas Filipinos. She was reacting to the contradictory positions taken by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Department of Foreign Affairs on the matter of issuing a deployment ban covering 41 countries.

“How can we genuinely protect the interests and well-being of 10 million Filipinos overseas if our government agencies cannot even get their acts together?” Legarda asked.

“The POEA Board Resolution had cited that it was on the basis of the certification of the Philippine embassies and consulates that it was issuing the deployment ban, and yet, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs is now calling for a deferment of the ban. These developments suggest lack of coherence in the actions being taken by DFA and POEA”, Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, added.

The POEA, in its Board Resolution No. 07 adopted on October 28, banned the deployment of Filipino workers to 41 countries. The resolution cited that Philippines embassies and consulates have certified that 41 countries covered by the ban have not been compliant with the guarantees provided under the Migrant Workers Act or RA 10022.

“I understand that it was the intent of the POEA to implement the provisions of the law. The question, however, rests on how the decision to impose a deployment ban on 41 countries was reached. Obviously, someone was left out in the cold”, Legarda said.

Sec. 5 of RA 10022 provides that “the POEA Governing Board, after consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs, may, at any time, terminate or impose a ban on the deployment of migrant workers.”

Senator Legarda also lamented the fact that POEA’s decision obviously overlooked the fact that the DFA serves as the first line of defense in the implementation of the country’s foreign policy. “The protection of overseas Filipinos is one of the pillars of our foreign policy. It is incumbent upon other agencies of the government to consult the DFA on matters that will affect our relations with other countries, and consequently, the interests of overseas Filipinos,” Legarda added.

POEA’s decision to impose a deployment ban is seen to impact on Filipinos in countries covered by the ban and those that have outstanding contracts for deployment in these countries. Other groups have also criticized the deployment ban citing that this may open the flood gates to irregular migration and trafficking in persons.