Repatriation not all about funding — Bello

Reminding lawmakers money is not always the solution to problems, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Friday said that repatriation of distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) is not assured by funding alone.

In a hybrid public hearing of the House Public Accounts Committee chaired by Rep. Mike Defensor, Bello said even bigger funding won’t bring home displaced migrant workers in the absence of other equally important factors.

“In repatriating our OFWs, we also have to consider the lockdowns imposed by countries where they are working,” Bello said.

He said the ‘lock-ins’ and ‘lock-outs’ in infected nations are still major stumbling blocks in the process even if the Philippines opens its doors to migrant workers amid its own restrictions to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

Another factor to be considered, Bello said, are the legal impediments tied to the exit visas, loans and cases of OFWs who want to go home.

“It really gets frustrating when foreign employers refuse to give the exit visas of our OFWs to stop them from returning to the Philippines. There are many employers like that abroad,” he said.

“Repatriation of OFWs also becomes difficult to achieve when they still have loans to settle and complaints to face,” Bello added.

Bello joined other Labor officials in the six-hour hearing to clarify issues on the challenges experienced by OFWs affected by the pandemic.

In his manifestation, House Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Ray ‘LRay’ Villafuerte pushed for more funds to boost government efforts to bring home the trouble migrant workers.

“Can we repatriate all our OFWs if we use more funds?” Villafuerte asked Bello.

The Labor Secretary replied ‘no’ but explained bigger funds can boost the whole-lot-of-government approach to save OFWs from their misery.

The best solution to the problem of our beloved OFWs, Bello said, is still the tight coordinated efforts of all concerned government agencies and private sector.