The five presidential candidates on Sunday laid out their plans to ease the hardships being experienced by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
During the third leg of the PiliPinas Debates 2016, Senator Grace Poe said he would come up with a PhilHealth card that OFWs can use wherever they are in the world.
"Magkakaron tayo ng portable PhilHealth card na puwede n'yong gamitin kahit saan sa mundo. Ang binibigay n'yong buwis o kita sa ating bayan ay $26 billion, sa VAT pa lang nun P150 billion ang pwede natin gamitin sa inyo," she said.
She added that her government will also be setting up a 24-hour hotline which distressed OFWs can call whenever they have problems.
The senator said if elected president, she will hold bilateral talks with foreign governments to protect Filipinos working abroad, particularly with Saudi Arabia.
She also said that the renewal of seaman's book should be expedited, terminal fees for OFWs should be removed and the balikbayan box should not be touched by corrupt staff.
"Dapat red carpet treatment," she said.
Poe, former Interior Mar Roxas, Vice President Jejomar Binay, and Senator Miriam Defensor all noted the need to improve the economy so that if ever the OFWs decide to return to the country, they will be able to secure jobs here.
"Ang aking gusto ay ihanda ang ekonomiya para pag uwi ay may trabaho kayo. Lalago ang ekonomiya at kung aalis kayo ay dahil sa kagustuhan n'yo," Poe said.
Consul offices open during weekends
Roxas said the country now has the lowest unemployment, and it has been the situation in the past 10 years.
"Maraming trabaho ang nalilikha dito, kung gustong umuwi ng ating mga OFWs, makakauwi sila. More than 600,000 ang bawas ng bilang ng mga OFW na nag-aapply para sa pagbalik sa abroad. ibig sabihin nakakapaghanap buhay sila dito. Ang importante ay ang paglago ng ating ekonomiya. Importante po yun para may mauuwian kayo dito," he said.
Both Roxas and Poe noted the importance of staying in the country to keep the family intact.
"Nais namin na makauwi kayo dito para kasama ninyo ang inyong pamilya, hindi kayo mawalay sa kanila at hindi magiging mahirap ang inyong pamumuhay. Importante na mabuo natin ang pamilya, yan ang sentro ng ating lipunan, yan ang lakas ng Pilipino, ang Pilipinong pamilya," he said.
Roxas also said that the embassies and consul offices should be open even during weekends.
"Ang embahada sarado 'pag weekened kung kailan libre ang oras ng mga kababayan natin. Paano sila pupunta kung sarado ang tanggapan? Dapat buksan iyan para kung kelan kailangan may mapupuntahan sila," he said.
Roadmap for OFWs
Binay said, under his administration, a pension plan for OFWs will be set up;, membership fees for Overseas Workers Welfare Administration will be shouldered by the government, and there will be a roadmap where the OFW can see where he would be until he stops being an OFW.
He also said that his government will release the P100 million legal assistance for distressed OFWs that has been previously vetoed by President Benigno Aquino III.
"Merong inilaan na P100 million na tulong pero ito ay hindi ho na-approve ng gobyernong ito," he said.
Santiago, during her turn, said that legal assistance is very important for OFWs.
She added there should be a Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and OWWA hotline that the OFWs can call to ask for help.
The senator also noted the need to cooperate with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to build an economic community and help create jobs .
Separate agency for remittance
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, proposed the creation of a department that will take care of all the needs of OFWS and a bank that will handle their remittances.
He also said that all of the OFWs who wanted to return to the country should be given free tickets and the government should pay for the hospital bill of sick or hospitalized OFWs.
"Bigyan ng ticket kung sino ang gustong umuwi, we will have the legal aid," he said. —ALG, GMA News