Senators seek assistance for repatriated OFWs from Kuwait

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 11) — Senators want assistance ready for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who will be sent home from Kuwait.

"Bukod sa pagsiguro sa kanilang kaligtasan, dapat ay may trabaho at tulong pangkabuhayan na naghihintay para sa ating mga kababayan mula sa Kuwait," Senator Sonny Angara said in a press release Saturday.

(Translation: Aside from securing their safety, we should have jobs and livelihood assistance ready for the repatriated OFWs from Kuwait.)

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday ordered Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello to bring home distressed OFWs in 72 hours, after a body of a Filipina worker was discovered inside a freezer in Kuwait.

READ: Duterte wants distressed OFWs home from Kuwait in 72 hours

Angara, one of the sponsors of the law governing the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) signed in 2016, said the government should strengthen its job creation programs.

"Kung may sapat na trabaho sa bansa, hindi na nila kailangang magtrabaho abroad at iwan ang kanilang pamilya," Angara said.

(Translation: If there are enough jobs in the country, there will be no need for Filipinos to go abroad and leave their families.)

Detained Senator Leila de Lima also called on the Labor and Foreign Affairs departments to provide assistance.

"The government should ensure that OFWs would be assisted in finding decent jobs back home or other overseas destinations, if not help them set up business and livelihood in the country," she added.

The OWWA, an attached agency of DOLE, provides for cash grants and loans for repatriated OFWs, as well as educational and legal assistance for their dependents.

While the ban on the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait stays, Senator Kiko Pangilinan said it should be the last resort.

"Madali kasing sabihing itigil eh. Eh iyan ang kumikita para sa mga pamilya nila at mga mahal nila sa buhay," Pangilinan said in a radio interview Sunday.

(Translation: It's easy to order a ban. But these OFWs go abroad for their families and loved ones.)

If possible, the Senator added, the government should discuss with Kuwait officials how they can better protect Filipino workers there.

"Maybe we should precisely figure out a mechanism na kung saan magkakaroon ng paraan na ang ating gobyerno ay takbuhan ng ating mga kababayan," Pangilinan added.

(Translation: Maybe we should precisely figure out a mechanism where the Filipinos can ask for help from the government.)

Senator Win Gatchalian echoed the same, adding the government should not send any more OFWs in countries where there are no laws for the protection of migrant workers.

Kuwait is a top destination for Filipino workers. The latest data from Philippine Overseas Employment Administration show there are some 86,019 Filipinos in the country as of 2015.

The DOLE said it has been waiting on the Kuwaiti government to sign a Memorandum of Understanding, which provides additional protection for Filipino workers in that country. The document has been pending for three years.