The administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has been working hard to promote and protect the welfare of migrant and overseas Filipino workers, including the seafarers, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go said.
“Sa lahat po ng mga seafarers, ipaglalaban ko po kayo (To all seafarers, I will fight for you),” Go said as he joined the celebration of the Day of Seafarers last Friday.
Go said he and Duterte recognize the invaluable contributions of Filipino seafarers to the country’s economic development.
“That is why the Duterte Administration, through the Maritime Industry Authority under the Department of Transportation, has been working hard to provide concrete plans of action to ensure that you are looked after in these difficult and challenging times,” he added.
He reiterated his concern for the plight of more than 10 million overseas Filipinos and their families amid the ongoing pandemic, as well as other crisis situations happening around the world.
“Higit kumulang sampung porsyento ng ating populasyon ang nasa abroad. Mahirap po mawalay sa sariling bayan para lang buhayin ang pamilya at mabigyan ng mas magandang kinabukasan ang inyong mga anak. Bilang mambabatas, gagawin ko ang lahat upang maipaglaban ang inyong kapakanan (At least 10 percent of our population are working abroad. It’s hard to be away just to give your children a better future. As lawmaker, I will do my best to fight your welfare),” Go said.
Go has been pushing for the immediate passage of Senate Bill 2234, which aims to establish the Department of Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos.
Duterte earlier certified the bill as urgent, seeking to create a department that will formulate, recommend and implement national policies, plans, programs and guidelines that protect overseas Filipinos, including OFWs, as well as promote their interests and resolve issues concerning them in a timely and effective manner.
The proposed law will be responsible for providing all relevant social and welfare services, including insurance, social work assistance and legal assistance, as well as administer reintegration and social service programs to overseas Filipinos.
It shall also provide assistance to national services, especially during times of national emergencies, such as pandemic or war.
Go echoed Duterte’s call to hasten the passage of the proposed law as this will provide a more efficient, whole-of-government approach in promoting the welfare and interest of overseas Filipinos.
“Ngayon, kung mayroon ng departamentong nakatutok sa kanila, iisa na lang po ang lalapitan nila, nakatutok (na) secretary-level down to regional offices ‘yung nasa malayo sa ating bansa. Hindi na po sila kailangang pumunta sa Maynila — sa iba’t ibang ahensya — dahil mayroon na ho silang departamento (Now, if there is already a department that will look after their welfare, they don’t have to go to many departments, they have their own secretary-level down to regional offices. They don’t have to go to Manila — to different offices — cause they have their own department),” Go said.
He said the government should not deny them of their rights and privileges that they have to enjoy as modern heroes of the nation.
“Itinuturing nga natin silang mga bagong bayani, so bigyan natin sila ng departamentong nakatutok po sa kanila (We consider them as modern-day heroes, so let’s give them a department that will solely look after their welfare),” he added.
Go, chair of the Senate committee on health, reiterated his appeal to the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
“Magpabakuna ho kayo, huwag ho kayong matakot sa bakuna. Ang bakuna po ang solusyon o susi para makabalik tayo sa ating normal na pamumuhay kung saan mayakap natin ang ating kapwa Pilipino (Get vaccinated, don’t be afraid. Vaccine is the solution or key for us to return to our normal life),” Go said.
Go earlier successfully appealed to the national government to include all the overseas workers in the A4 priority list for Covid-19 vaccination rollout.
Duterte also approved Go’s subsequent recommendation to allocate specific brands of vaccines for OFWs that are considered “acceptable” in their countries of destination and ports of entry.
Go also offered additional assistance to the seafarers with medical concerns and advised them that they can visit any of the 121 Malasakit Centers nationwide. These centers will provide convenient access to medical assistance programs to cover their hospital and medical related expenses.
To further help struggling migrant workers, the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Agriculture extended alternative livelihood assistance to qualified seafarer beneficiaries.
Last Friday, Go also witnessed the vaccination rollout to Filipino seafarers where he and his team distributed additional aid to 550 identified beneficiaries.
Go thanked and recognized the hard work of Maritime Industry Authority and other concerned agencies in promoting the welfare of seafarers and other related sectors.
“Sa inyong administrator na si Sir Bob Empedrad, salamat sa inyong trabaho. Sabi nga niya kanina, marami raw siyang reforms na ginawa rito (To your administrator Bob Empedrad, thank you for your work. According to him, he is implementing several reforms),” Go said.