Joint hearing of Committee on Foreign Relations and Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resource Development

March 29, 2011

The first quarter of the year has posed a great challenge to our government in terms of promoting the well-being and safety of Filipino nationals overseas. The socio-political developments in the Middle East and North Africa, and the hazards that occurred in some nations have put to test the ability of our government, including our embassies and consulates abroad, to carry out its mandated duty to protect our citizens living and working in foreign countries.
The political unrest in Tunisia and Egypt has ceased; the events in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria, we continue to monitor; but the crisis in Libya has turned into a serious international concern with the involvement of the United Nations Security Council and the Western forces in the ensuing battle between the pro- and anti-government groups. Majority of Filipinos residing in Libya have been repatriated but, as of the latest report we have received, thousands still remain in the conflict-stricken nation.
Meanwhile, New Zealand and Japan had to deal with a different disaster—strong temblors and a tsunami that claimed the lives of many and displaced thousands of individuals, including Filipinos.
These series of international events, more than being a challenge to our government, has caused trauma, stress and anxiety to our overseas Filipinos and to their families here in the country.
The purpose of this hearing is to find out how our government is dealing with these events, how concerned agencies are implementing our laws, and what contingency plans do they have in place in case crisis situations erupt in other nations where there are large concentration of Filipinos. We are here to assess the government’s actions and plans for our overseas Filipinos. We want to find out:
• If our embassies and consulates have the necessary intelligence network to get the latest information regarding the real situation on the ground in distressed areas;
• If we have a definite plan for the conduct of repatriation anytime and if there is enough fund or support for it;
• If we have in place concrete programs for reintegration of displaced OFWs into our society, including entrepreneurial opportunities, skills mapping and matching between areas vacated by OFWs and potential alternative places for redeployment; and
• If funds, provided for in our laws, intended for these efforts and programs are readily available.
Our overseas Filipinos are already enduring various hardships living and working in foreign lands, yet they, as our modern day heroes, are able to greatly contribute to nation-building, especially in lessening our country’s economic woes. We have crafted the legal mechanisms that would ensure that their well-being and safety are protected, and our government has repeatedly assured the same. Our citizens are hoping this is not mere lip service, but a genuine effort to guarantee that their concerns are never set aside even if they are far away from our country.