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Legarda Seeks Inquiry into Gov’t Preparedness in Giving Aid to OFWs during Emergency Situations Abroad

March 3, 2011

SENATOR LOREN LEGARDA TODAY SOUGHT AN INVESTIGATION ON THE PREPAREDNESS OF THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT, INCLUDING EMBASSIES AND CONSULATES ABROAD, TO PROVIDE ASSISTANCE TO OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS (OFWS) ESPECIALLY DURING EMERGENCY SITUATIONS.
Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said that recent incidents in different parts of the world have brought impending danger to OFWs.
Based on records from the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), more than 14,000 OFWs remain trapped in strife-torn Libya. Meanwhile, 11 Filipinos are still missing following the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that hit Christchurch, New Zealand last February 22.
“The political turmoil and social unrest in Libya have compromised the safety of thousands of OFWs due to the eruption of violence and cross-fire between pro- and anti-government forces. This, and the recent tremor in New Zealand that has affected some of our countrymen, have brought anxiety both to the OFWs and their relatives,” Legarda said.
“It is in this regard that we are pushing for an inquiry into the efforts being done by our government, particularly theDepartment of Foreign Affairs, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, other labor related agencies and our embassies and consulates abroad, in relation to these events and their preparedness in providing assistance to our OFWs should other emergency situation arise in other countries,” she stressed.
In seeking an inquiry, the Senator explained that bilateral relations with foreign nations, where OFWs are residing, must be utilized for a combined effort in the protection of our OFWs in cases of distressed and emergency situations.
“Our embassies and consulates must provide our government here with constant assessments of the existing situations in their respective territorial assignments. They should have a sense of urgency and be prepared to adopt contingency measures even before a crisis erupts so as not to compromise the safety of our OFWs,” Legarda said.
She added that the intelligence network of diplomatic posts abroad must be strengthened so that they are able to foresee a looming crisis and plan ahead by analyzing domestic tensions in their posts.
Furthermore, the government should be prepared, at all times, not only in providing immediate repatriation for OFWs but also in adopting reintegration programs, such as skills training for displaced OFWs, that would provide them opportunities to get back on their feet after their stressful experience abroad and also to boost their morale.
“The safety of the more than 1.5 million OFWs scattered throughout 197 countries around the world is of paramount importance, not only because of their significant contribution in saving the Philippine economy but also because of the added hardships that they have to face while living and working abroad,” Legarda concluded.