Reelectionist Senator Sonny Angara is urging the families of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Libya to convince their loved ones to return to the Philippines as soon as possible after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) raised to the highest level the crisis alert in the North African state due to intense fighting around the capital city of Tripoli.
The DFA declared Alert Level 4, which requires mandatory repatriation and a total ban on OFW deployment to Libya, where more than 3,500 Filipinos are currently employed.
“We ask the relatives of our OFWs in Libya to persuade their loved ones to heed the government’s forced evacuation order and proceed to the Philippine embassy in Tripoli so that repatriation procedures can be initiated as soon as possible,” Angara said.
“Huwag na po sanang magdalawang-isip pa ang ating mga kababayan sa Libya na bumalik sa Pilipinas sa lalong madaling panahon para mailayo sila sa anumang kapahamakan at makapiling nila ang kanilang mga mahal sa buhay dito sa Pilipinas. Ang bawat buhay po ay mahalaga,” he added.
The lawmaker from Aurora, who is running under the platform “Alagang Angara,” also reiterated his appeal to the government ensure the safe return of Filipinos who wish to avail of the repatriation program.
According to Angara, those who will return home should not worry because the government is ready to take care of their needs, citing the benefits provided under Republic Act 10801 that institutionalized and strengthened the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
“Hindi po kailangang mag-alinlangan ang mga OFW sa Libya na bumalik sa Pilipinas dahil may mga programa ang gobyerno para sa kanila,” Angara said. “Ang benepisyong ito ay nanggaling mismo sa kanilang bulsa kaya marapat lamang na sila ay makinabang dito lalo na sa panahong kailangan nila ng tulong.”
Angara co-authored and sponsored RA 10801, also known as the OWWA Act of 2016, as then chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor. The law provides a wide array of services and benefits to OFWs funded by the $25 membership fee collected from them every two years.
Under RA 10801, OWWA is mandated to provide benefits and services to its members, which include gender-responsive integration program, repatriation assistance, loan and credit assistance, on-site worker assistance, death and disability benefits, health care benefits, education and skills training, social services, and family welfare assistance.
These benefits and services, according to Angara, are just a small token of gratitude for the valuable contribution of OFWs to the overall national development effort. “We have to give back to our OFWs, whose remittances have kept the Philippine economy afloat for many years,” the senator said.
On top of the OWWA funds, Angara said the Senate allocated an additional P100 million for the emergency repatriation program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) under the 2019 national budget.
“The additional funding would provide the department a standby fund for the repatriation of distressed OFWs in cases of outbreaks or crisis in their host countries,” said Angara, who sponsored the DOLE’s 2019 budget being the vice chair of the Senate finance committee.