FOREIGN Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano yesterday hailed the more than 10 million overseas Filipinos who have been sacrificing abroad to provide for a better future for their families, and assured them that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will continue to be responsive to their needs.
In a statement on the occasion of Filipino Migrant Workers Day, Cayetano reaffirmed the DFA’s commitment to continue to strengthen its efforts to protect and promote the rights and welfare of Filipinos abroad.
“We cannot just say we care for our kababayans abroad. We must be able to demonstrate that we care enough for them,” Cayetano said as he underscored President Duterte’s promise to look after the welfare of Filipinos wherever in the world they may be.
The Secretary expressed his appreciation to the President and Congress for approving the increase in the Assistance to Nationals (ATN) Fund from P400 million last year to P1 billion in 2018.
“This generous gesture of the President and members of Congress has allowed us to help more of our distressed kababayan abroad,” the Secretary said as he cited the more than 9,000 overseas workers the DFA has been able to assist from January to April alone.
The Secretary said the P200 million that was added to the DFA’s Legal Assistance Fund also benefited almost 300 overseas workers during the same period.
“The Department has also opened additional Consular Offices in various regional locations to bring its frontline services closer to our overseas workers,” he added.
“This is all in recognition of the hard work and sacrifice of our modern-day heroes,” the Secretary said.
Cayetano, at the same time, said that all Philippine embassies and consulates abroad shall be more proactive in promoting the welfare and protecting the rights of overseas workers.
“We will also strive to enhance access of our overseas workers to government services abroad and in the Philippines in cooperation with other relevant agencies of government such as the Department of Labor and Employment,” he said.
In a separate message to overseas Filipinos, Cayetano recognized the sacrifices of overseas Filipinos, and their invaluable contribution to nation-building.
“Through their indomitable Filipino spirit, they have braved foreign lands and overcame many challenges to gain economic freedom for their families and to give them better opportunities in life. In doing so, they built communities and lifted up our beloved country, the Philippines,” the Secretary said.
Cayetano ended his message by reaffirming the DFA’s unwavering commitment to look after the welfare and well-being Filipinos abroad.
“As we hope that one day, going abroad to work becomes an option instead of a necessity, the Department assures our kababayan that as a core national interest of the Philippines, we shall always defend and protect their well-being worldwide,” he said.
As part of its commemoration, Cayetano said all foreign service posts will be providing care packages to all Filipinos staying in government-run shelters as well as those currently in detention facilities abroad.
Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers Act that was enacted on 7 June 1995 is a landmark law protecting and promoting the welfare of overseas Filipino workers, which is one of the three pillars of Philippine foreign policy.