The creation of the Department of Overseas Filipinos (DOFil) is the administration’s top priority among the proposed bills seeking the creation of new government departments, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Monday.
During the hybrid hearing of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, the Palace official told senators that the ongoing pandemic made its establishment more urgent as it “emphasizes the need for one department to take care” of concerns of Filipinos working abroad.
“We know that there’s limited time already. The Congress has limited time, so if we were to select which one would get the top priority, because of the constant time constraints, DOFil would be number one,” Nograles said.
There are seven other proposed government departments pending in the Senate – the Department of Water; Department of Disaster Resilience; Department of Fisheries; Department of Sports; Department of Homeland Security; Department of Economic Planning; and the Department on Culture
The Department of Water and Department of Disaster Resilience were mentioned by President Duterte during his last State of the Nation Address and are considered as priority legislations.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, in questioning its establishment, said DOFil “will not engage in any new activity” but will only perform the duties of Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, welfare officers and assistance to national units of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Nograles reiterated that DOFil will streamline all functions currently being carried out by the said government agencies.
“Yes, it is true that all of these functions are already being done by various agencies and offices under different departments. The creation of the Department of Overseas Filipinos will integrate everything in one department,” he said.
The Department of Budget and Management said it would require at least P1.109 billion to establish DOFil. It will cover personnel services, maintenance and operating expenses, and capital outlay only but not funds needed for programs and activities to fulfill its mandates.
DOFil, to be created under Senate Bill 1323, aims to provide a more effective and efficient delivery of services to OFW by having departments dealing with their concerns under one umbrella.
It was filed by Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go in December last year and has been certified urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte. It was also included in the top 20 priority legislation by Congress this year.
By “rightsizing” the bureaucracy, Go said it will eliminate the confusing process OFW have to go through when seeking help from the government.
Aside from creating a more efficient help system, the ‘one-country’ strategy through DOFil will also require officials in Philippine diplomatic posts to act together as one team, per country of assignment.