Malacañang has created a new, high-level team to strengthen the government’s ability to respond to the needs of overseas Filipino workers faced with political conflict and natural disasters in the countries where they toil.
Executive Order No. 34, signed on April 6 by President Benigno Aquino III and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. establishes the Overseas Preparedness and Response Team under the Office of the President. It replaces the Middle East Preparedness Team that was formed in 2002 to deal with the evacuation of thousands of Filipino workers in the Middle East during the crisis in Iraq.
The EO mandates that the OPRT be composed of the executive secretary as chairperson and the presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers’ concerns and the secretaries of the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Labor and Employment, National Defense, Justice, the Interior and Local Government, and Budget and Management as members.
The presidential adviser on migrant workers is Vice President Jejomar Binay.
The high-level crisis team has been tasked to draw up strategies and programs and to formulate policies to appropriately respond to crisis situations affecting Filipinos abroad. It shall develop and adopt interactive operating arrangements among agencies to effect maximum coordination.
The panel may call upon any department or agency of the government or private-sector group and coordinate with bilateral and multilateral partners in the formulation and implementation of plans, programs and policies.
“Natural disasters, civil unrest, armed conflicts and similar crises in foreign countries expose overseas Filipinos to immediate hazards and risks,” Ochoa said in a statement regarding the EO.
“So, it is only imperative that we establish a measure and a system that would ensure the safety and welfare of our countrymen abroad,” he added.