Duterte wants OFW centers in major cities

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 7) — President Rodrigo Duterte wants major cities across the country to have a one-stop center for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to cut red tape in the government.

"Sana malagay ito sa major cities para hindi na sila mag-biyahe (Hopefully it will be in major cities so they don't have to travel)," Duterte said during Thursday's groundbreaking ceremony of the OFW Center in Las Piñas City.

Duterte pointed out the current process burdens migrant workers - especially those coming from provinces - as they are forced to go to different government offices to complete their requirements.

He also said traffic woes add to the suffering of OFWs when processing their papers.

"Lahat ng opisina na kailangan o who may have to intervene in the papers of migrant workers, kailangan nandun sila. Ang migrant workers walang pera 'yan. It's very tiring because they don't have private cars and they can't complete papers dahil pabalik-balik," he said.

[Translation: All the offices needed or who may have to intervene in the papers of migrant workers, need to be there. Migrant workers have no money. It's very tiring because they don't have private cars and they can't complete papers because they keep going back (to the office).]

The hub would provide government services, ministry counseling, and legal assistance for OFWs, the President added.

Duterte said OFWs "will always play a crucial part in the country's development, especially during times of recovery after tumultuous events, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic."

In a statement, the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) backed Duterte's call, saying establishing OFW center satellites "will help declog backlogs in the central offices."

Meanwhile, Duterte attributed the delayed operations of the Department of Migrant Workers to financial challenges brought by the health crisis.

"It was created during my time. Medyo matagal nang konti, dahil (It has been delayed because) every time you create a new department or agency, you have to have the money to run it. And since we were not able to save enough because of the pandemic, we had to put if off to some other time," he said.

"There is a new phase of COVID-19, medyo mababa na. At ano 'yung pera pumasok since then, 'yun ang gagamitin ni Secretary Abdullah Mama-o," Duterte added.

[Translation: There is a new phase of COVID-19, (cases are) relatively low already. And the money that has been coming in since then, that is what Secretary Abdullah Mama-o will use.]

However, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon criticized Mama-o, stressing he could be slapped with usurpation of public functions.

Drilon said Mama-o has no power to issue his own rules and regulations as the agency has yet to be constituted.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Tristan Nodalo contributed to this report.