overseas Filipino workers

Senate Bill No. 648: Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Assistance Act

From the malls of Hong Kong to the souqs of the Middle East and even on massive vessels navigating through borderless seas, you’ll find talented Filipinos diligently working to build a brighter future for their family.

They aren’t only keeping their loved ones above water financially; they are also keeping the Philippine economy afloat with remittances reaching $16.21 billion or P764 billion from January to August 2015.

Even with their contribution, Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) remain vulnerable to poor working conditions and abusive employers.

In addition, their employment abroad is no guarantee of financial success.

In a survey conducted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas last September 2015, only 38.2% of the 563 household-respondents said that a portion of the money from OFWs are set aside for savings.

There are still too many OFWs that come home without a plan for retirement. Keeping in mind our duty to empower and uplift every Filipino, the OFW Protection Act bolsters our support for the OFW community and the families they leave back home.

This measure ensures our OFWs safety by strictly monitoring and assessing accredited partner agencies and mandating the Public Attorney’s Office to establish a help­ desk in every international port of exit in the Philippines to offer legal service, assistance and advice to departing migrant workers.

Acknowledging the immense power in access to credible information, this measure orders effective and efficient information dissemination on labor, employment, and migration data through various mediums, including social media.

Lastly, to truly achieve prosperity for every Filipino family, this measure integrates programs on livelihood, entrepreneurship, savings, investments and financial literacy to the existing efforts of embassies.

This is our opportunity show our gratitude and appreciation to our overseas Filipinos while fulfilling our duty as public servants.


Bam: Collective Efforts Saved Mary Jane

Senator Bam Aquino lauds the collective efforts of President Aquino, Vice President Jejomar Binay and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario that led to the granting of temporary reprieve to Mary Jane Veloso.

“This once again proves that if concerned government agencies work together,  positive things happen,” said Sen. Bam.

Aquino also expressed gratitude to the Indonesian government for granting Mary Jane a temporary reprieve, allowing her to testify against her recruiters.

“I call on the Department of Justice and the Department of Foreign Affairs to continue supporting Mary Jane in her case so she will be spared from the death penalty,” Sen. Bam said.

Indonesia has given Mary Jane a temporary reprieve to allow her to testify against her recruiter Maria Kristina Sergio, who earlier surrendered to authorities in Nueva Ecija.

Sen. Bam also called on authorities to beef up the case filed against Mary Jane’s recruiters and others responsible for her plight so she can get justice for her years of incarceration and torment.

“Let us exert all means necessary to protect our Overseas Filipinos against syndicates who use them as drug couriers and other illegal activities,” Sen. Bam added.

Sen. Bam recently filed a resolution seeking to conduct an inquiry on the death penalty cases involving OFWs and the delay in the disposition of overseas-related cases, particularly illegal recruitment and trafficking.

“We need to ensure that assistance will be provided to the 805 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) – 45 of whom are on death row – incarcerated in different parts of the world,” asked Sen. Bam.

In his Senate Resolution No.  1266, Sen. Bam revealed that around 805 OFWs face drug-related cases worldwide as of September 2014.

“Most of these cases are in Asia at 341, 244 in the Middle East and Africa, 116 in the United States and 104 in Europe,” said Sen. Bam.

“Around 45 OFWs are in death row, but their sentences are not yet final as the cases are on various stages of appeal,” he added. 

Based on data from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), only 196 OFWs have received help from the department’s legal assistance fund from January 2011 to August 2012.

The DFA attributed this low number to the limitation under Sections 18 and 19 of Republic Act No. 10022, which amends the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.

“Kung itinuturing natin ang mga OFWs bilang mga bayani, kailangan natin silang bigyan ng sapat na suporta at proteksyon lalo na’t sila’y nasa ibang bansa,” emphasized Sen. Bam.

“Ang laki ng kanilang kontribusyon sa ating pag-unlad. Huwag natin silang pabayaan,” added Sen. Bam.

Lower Customs Cost for OFWs’ Balikbayan Boxes, Packages – Sen. Bam

Good news for 10 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) burdened by the tedious and costly process of sending balikbayan boxes to their loved ones in the Philippines.

Sending balikbayan boxes and other low-value and low-risk packages to the Philippines will be faster and cheaper if the proposal of Senator Bam Aquino to update the current de minimis threshold is enacted into law.

“Sending a balikbayan box home especially this coming Christmas season becomes burdensome for these modern-day heroes. Currently, these packages undergo a tedious process in the customs and are charged fees that are discouraging for OFWs to send more regularly,” the senator said.

“There is a need to provide the ten million Filipinos abroad, who have been already contributing greatly to the economy the past four decades, a better customs administration by reducing the de minimis threshold,” he added.

Currently, the Philippines has the lowest de minimis threshold, or the minimal volume of declaration of goods in the customs for consignments, in the ASEAN, at PhP10 or US$0.23. The ASEAN average threshold is at a hundred dollars.

“The extremely low Philippine threshold has not been changed since 1957 and is clearly antiquated. It needs to be updated to be reflective of current prices,” the senator said.

The lawmaker explained that thresholds for customs declaration signify increased documentation and processes for shipments at entry points in the country.

“Increased documentation leads to larger turnover and delivery time of goods, and larger administration costs that would yield lower revenue impact for both businesses and government,” he added.

 By increasing the de minimis level to a more realistic and relevant figure of P10,000, Aquino saidbalikbayan boxes and other packages of OFWs, entrepreneurs and other individuals will be processed by Customs faster with minimum fees.

“Also, it will enable the Bureau of Customs to focus its efforts in looking out for high-value, high-risk and high-revenue goods for collection and enforcement, thereby making customs processes more efficient,” he added.

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