Sen. Bong Go calls for more sustainable, comprehensive reintegration support for repatriated OFWs amid Israel-Hamas conflict

Sen. Bong Go calls for more sustainable, comprehensive reintegration support for repatriated OFWs amid Israel-Hamas conflict

SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go has reiterated the urgency of providing repatriation support and, eventually, more sustainable and comprehensive reintegration services for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) returning from Israel and Lebanon, in the light of ongoing tensions in the region.

Go, vice chairperson of the Senate Committee on Migrant Workers emphasized that the safety and welfare of OFWs must be prioritized during such global crises when they are forced to leave their jobs and go back home.

In an interview at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 in Pasay City on Thursday, November 23 where about 42 OFWs from conflict areas were set to return safely to the Philippines that day, the senator particularly stressed the need for a comprehensive and sustainable reintegration program being in place to cater to the varying needs of returning OFWs.

“Importante sa akin ‘yung safety po ng ating mga kababayan. Kasama na diyan ang mental health. Alam mo mahirap po ‘yung pinagdaanan ng ating mga OFWs, lalung-lalo na po galing sa giyera. Dapat po’y nakatutok ang gobyerno rito. Of course, kapag wala na ‘yung giyera, sana makabalik muli sila sa trabaho. Importante mayroon silang uuwian, may trabaho sila dito,” he said.

“Diyan po papasok ang DMW—Department of Migrant Workers. Nananawagan po ako sa gobyerno na asikasuhin po lahat, ibigay po lahat ang government intervention para sa ating mga kababayan,” he appealed.

Go acknowledged the need for mental health support and reintegration opportunities for OFWs returning from such areas, underscoring the government’s duty to ensure their well-being.

“Unang una, siguraduhin natin ang kanilang kaligtasan. Tulungan dapat silang makalikas sa ligtas na lugar at maiuwi sa kanilang mga pamilya dito. Pagkatapos ay dapat mayroon tayong handa at maayos na sistema ng suporta na makakapagbigay ng job counseling, skills retraining, at mga serbisyo sa mental health, at iba pa. It’s about empowering our OFWs to restart their lives here with dignity and hope,” Go remarked.

“Mahirap ang pinagdaanan nila doon. Nawalan na sila ng trabaho, may trauma pa yan dahil sa kaguluhan na naranasan nila. Ibigay dapat sa kanila ang sapat na suporta at pag-aaruga pag-uwi nila sa kanilang inang bayan upang makabangon muli,” he stressed.

Even before OFWs return home, Go called on the government to ensure that reintegration programs are made readily available for them to overcome the trauma they experienced and be able to recover.

“Our kababayans are coming home under distressing circumstances. It is the government’s responsibility to extend all possible support to these modern-day heroes,” said Go.

“Aside from possible employment opportunities, the government must be ready to provide assistance for their physical and psychological well-being, temporary housing if needed, and the welfare of their families as well,” he added.

Presently, the DMW provides immediate financial assistance amounting to P50,000 per repatriated OFW upon arrival in the country, on top of the existing comprehensive reintegration assistance and services to facilitate employment opportunities in the meantime.

Furthermore, the senator emphasized the need for local government units (LGUs) to play an active role in the reintegration process. He encouraged LGUs to work closely with national agencies in identifying the needs of returning OFWs within their respective localities and to develop localized reintegration programs.

“Our OFWs are hailed as modern-day heroes, and it’s only fitting that we ensure their safety wherever they are in the world. Once they return to the Philippines, the government must also be prepared to provide them with the necessary support as they reintegrate into society, bringing with them skills and experiences acquired overseas,” he said.

Meanwhile, Go called for immediate and collective action to help push for the release of 17 Filipino seafarers held hostage after Yemen’s Houthi rebels seized their cargo ship in the Red Sea.

“Nalulungkot tayo at ako’y nababahala. Nababahala ako sa sitwasyon ng ating 17 seafarers na nadamay sa giyera doon sa Israel,”

“Sana naman po, ‘yung mga walang kasalanan… nananawagan rin po ako… sa lahat po ng involved sa giyerang ito, ay pakawalan n’yo po sana ‘yung mga walang kasalanan na nagtatrabaho lang po, naghahanapbuhay sa ibang bansa,” he added.

On November 19, 17 Filipino seafarers were held hostage by Yemen’s Houthi rebels after they seized the cargo ship “Galaxy Leader” in the Red Sea. The incident happened amid the ongoing conflict in the region, specifically linked to Israel’s war against Hamas.

The Bahamas-flagged and British-owned vessel, which is operated by a Japanese firm, was captured by the rebels reportedly as a retaliatory act against Israel’s offensive in Gaza. The ship has links to Israeli businessman Abraham “Rami” Ungar.

The Philippine government is coordinating with other concerned nations to secure the release of the 17 Filipino seafarers. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is actively working with authorities in Iran, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia to receive the latest information, and the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) is continuously in touch with the hostages’ families to keep them informed.

Go has been a staunch supporter of the welfare of OFWs and was one of the authors and co-sponsors of Republic Act No. 11641, which led to the establishment of the DMW.

“The DMW Act was designed to protect our OFWs. Now, more than ever, it’s time to put this law into action to protect our kababayans,” Go emphasized.

On September 27, the Senate unanimously approved on third and final reading, Senate Bill No. (SBN) 2221, the Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers. Go, co-sponsor and one of the authors of the bill, lauded the approval, describing it as a “triumph for our unsung heroes and a testament to the Senate’s commitment to the welfare of our kababayans at sea.”

Go also filed SBN 2414 or the “OFW Ward Act.” If passed into law, every hospital under the Department of Health (DOH) across the country would have a specialized ward for OFWs and their family members who require hospitalization.

Go has also filed SBN 2297, which seeks to institutionalize the OFW Hospital in Pampanga and ensure its continuous operation by providing sufficient support through necessary funding, personnel, and equipment. The bill aims to improve healthcare services for OFWs and their families by strengthening the existing facility and allocating necessary funds for its maintenance and operation.


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