Measure seeks to remedy OFW repatriation concerns

Manila: A panel in the House of Representatives has approved the creation of a technical working group to expedite procedures in repatriating Filipino workers.

The technical working group (TWG) will fine-tune House Bills 674 and 1983 which both seek to expedite the process of repatriation of Filipino migrant workers.

The two bills seek to amend Republic Act 8042 which prescribes that it is the role of the government to repatriate overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), who for some reasons, need to return to their country. However, the particular law does not specify a definite period of time within which it must be completed.

There are cases when the companies that the OFWs had worked for had closed down, or for some reason, their services had been terminated by their employer without settling their exit process. There are situations where requests by OFWs to return home are lost due to bureaucratic red tape and procedural bottlenecks.

The repatriation process may take months or even years for some OFWs and, as a result, some of them had to stay abroad for years even without jobs.

According to Representative Jesulito Manalo, the two measures are very significant especially in the light of a ban ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte on processing new workers for Kuwait. The leader’s order carries a directive to repatriate all those who already want to go back to the Philippines.

“If enacted into law, the bills would help ensure that requests for repatriation will be processed with the appropriate urgency,” Representative Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, author of HB 674, said.

Representative Estrelita Suansing, who authored HB 1983, said that unlike expulsion and deportation which are actions of sovereign states, repatriation is defined as a “personal right” under specific conditions and described in various international instruments, such as the Geneva Convention and Protocols.

The lawmakers are looking at prescribing a 15-day limit on the repatriation of a worker who volunteered to be sent home.

“If the migrant worker is deceased, the repatriation shall be completed within 30 working days from the receipt of the written request by relevant government agencies,” they said.

It can be recalled that Duterte ordered tightened guidelines on sending workers to Kuwait following the discovery of the killing of Filipina maid Joanna Daniela Demafelis.

The remains of Demafelis were found inside a freezer in the home of her employer, an expatriate couple, only recently. Her body was flown to her family in Iloilo in Central Philippines on Sunday.

Since Duterte ordered stricter measures for sending Filipino workers to Kuwait, some 1,500 of its nationals who had been working in the Gulf state had already returned to their home country. Most are household workers like Demafelis.

According to Philippine Foreign Secretary Allan Peter Cayetano, most of the household workers who had returned to the country were amnestied by the Kuwaiti government.

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