MANILA — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has begun celebrating the Month of Overseas Filipinos by paying tribute to the more than 10 million Filipinos overseas, committing to pursue President Duterte’s directives to prioritize their concerns.
In a statement on Thursday, Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the Philippine economy defied expectations and even posted a 6.9-percent growth in the third quarter of the year due to overseas Filipinos’ contribution.
He cited statistics from the Bangko Sentral that showed remittance flows remained a major driver of economic growth and accounted for 9.8 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016.
“Our embassies and consulates all over the world remain guided by President Durterte’s directive for us to not only continue looking after the welfare of our kababayans abroad by improving our services, but to also ensure their comfort and convenience,” Cayetano said.
“Soon, we will be launching new initiatives in the Philippines and abroad to improve the delivery of consular and other services.”
According to the official, the DFA has been working closely with Secretary Silvestre Bello III of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to improve coordination, especially in responding to requests for assistance from distressed Filipinos abroad.
Cayetano said he expects to formally present to the President and the Cabinet a proposal for the creation of an OFW Cluster that would include the DFA, DOLE, and other government agencies, to ensure better coordination on matters involving overseas workers and their family members in the Philippines.
“President Duterte is also fulfilling his commitment to support the work of the DFA Office of Migrant Workers Affairs and address concerns of our overseas workers,” Cayetano said.
He said the DFA is expected to be more responsive in addressing the needs of distressed Filipinos abroad after the President increased the budget for Assistance to Nationals (ATN) from PHP400 million to PHP1 billion for 2018.
In 1988, Proclamation No. 276 declared December of every year as Month of Overseas Filipinos.