Noting the “disjointed” efforts by various government agencies to aid overseas Filipino workers (OFW) affected by the Middle East tension, Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go reiterated his call for a united front, through his proposed Department of Overseas Filipinos (DoF), to focus on the general welfare of OFW.
Go said that while the Departments of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Labor and Employment (DoLE), the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Commission on Filipino Overseas are doing their best, a unified department is really needed.
“The recent crisis in the Middle East is not the only problem for our overseas Filipinos. There are also red tape and inefficiency in government offices as well as the disjointed bureaucracy that they have to contend with and endure here at home,” Go said.
“That is why I believe that now is the best time to talk about the important topic of establishing a Department of Overseas Filipinos. It is time for us to have a unified department that is solely focused on their welfare,” he added.
One-stop shop for OFW
Under Go’s Senate Bill (SB) 202 or the establishment of the Department of Overseas Filipinos, the functions currently performed by several government agencies will be transferred into one single office.
The DOF will become the umbrella agency that will safeguard the rights and address the concerns of all Filipinos abroad, including their families.
“For the record, I am not saying that our present agencies are not up to the task. Actually, they are performing really well and are often overextending themselves in order to serve our people. But I believe we can do better. Through this agency, I believe we can do even more,” Go stressed.
Go noted that there are about 10 million Filipinos who now work abroad.
The Middle East tension escalated recently after the United States launched strikes targeting Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed at the Baghdad international airport.
Modern hospitals for all
President Rodrigo Duterte immediately ordered the evacuation of OFW from Iraq to ensure their safety. He even sent Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to the Middle East to start preparations for the evacuation of thousands of OFW.
Meanwhile, Go also proposed SB 1226 that seeks to modernize hospitals being run by the Department of Health (DoH) to complement the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law in bringing free and quality medical services to all Filipinos.
SB 1226, or the proposed DoH Hospital Bed Capacity and Service Capability Rationalization Act of 2019, aims to expedite the process for improving the capacity and capability of the hospitals.
It requires the DoH to “provide Congress, through the Committee on Health of the House of Representatives and Committee on Health and Demography of the Senate, an annual report of hospitals with approved bed capacities, along with the necessary funding requirements.”
The bill also obliges the DoH to “develop the Philippine Health Facility Development Plan (PHFDP) to guide the modernization and development plans of all government health facilities, and in order to access capital outlay investment through the Health Facilities Enhancement Program of the DoH and other national government capital outlay investment mechanisms.”
Healthy society eyed
Go cited the importance of having a healthy citizenry in steering the country towards further development.
He said he filed the bill because Republic Act 11223 or the UHC Law mandates “a people-oriented approach for the delivery of health services that is centered on people’s needs and well-being.”
Go noted that DoH hospitals often serve patients beyond their authorized bed capacities and are further constrained by the lack of adequate staffing, maintenance and operating resources, resulting in longer waiting times for patients and delays in their treatment.
He also cited the 2017 PHFDP, which indicated that the ratio of general hospital beds to the population was 1:1,142. Go said the figure exceeds the ideal ratio of 1:1,000.
As of 2017, the Philippines has 1,161 licensed hospitals, 405 of which are owned by the government and 73 of which are retained by DoH.