Migrante International today reiterated that Republic Act 10022, or the amended Migrants' Act, clearly states that the Philippine government should assume full responsibility in the repatriation of overseas Filipino workers in times of emergency and/or crisis.
According to Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, while Section 15. of RA 10022 states that the "repatriation of the worker and transport of his personal belongings shall be the primary responsibility of the agency which recruited or deployed the worker overseas", this only applies to "normal" circumstances".
The migrant leader made the clarification after Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz justified the government's yielding of primary responsibility to recruitment agencies and employers in the repatriation of OFWs from Libya in a hearing of the House of Representatives Committee on Overseas Workers' Affairs (COWA) last March 9, 2011.
Martinez was further dismayed, he said, when other government agencies present in the hearing, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and DOLE's attached agencies namely the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) "did not object to this falsehood."
"We advise Sec. Baldoz and other concerned government agencies to review the law and review it well," he said.
Martinez cited Sec. 15 of RA 10022 which states that "OWWA, in coordination with appropriate international agencies, shall undertake the repatriation of workers in cases of war, epidemic, disasters or calamities, natural or man-made, and other similar events without prejudice to reimbursement by the responsible principal or agency. However, in cases where the principal or recruitment agency cannot be identified, all costs attendant to repatriation shall be borne by the OWWA."
He added that it is for this purpose that an emergency repatriation fund of P100 million has been established. Baldoz, he said, reported to the same hearing that the DOLE and OWWA has so far only disbursed a total of P4.098 million for the repatriation of OFWs in Libya. "And the government's perennial reasoning is that we are short of funds, na hindi tayo kasing-yaman ng ibang mga bansa, pero may nakalaan namang pondo para sa mga kalagayang tulad ng ganito."
Martinez added that the law also does not discriminate or make a distinction between "documented" or "undocumented" workers in the matter of emergency repatriation.
Migrante expressed concern anew in light of the recent earthquakes and tsunami that hit Japan and the possible escalation of uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa region. There is an estimated 305,000 Filipinos in Japan while 3 million Filipinos are located in the MENA region.
"These conditions obviously call for decisive government assistance and intervention with regard to the safety and protection of our OFWs. Hindi na pupuwede ang katulad ng ginawa nila sa Libya na ipinaubaya sa iba ang pangunahing responsibilidad nila."