POST- ANNIVERSARY PRESS RELEASE
CFO Secretary Francisco P. Acosta giving keynote message via Zoom during the CFO Anniversary
Celebration; Usec. Astravel Pimentel-Naik hosting the event
June 16, 2020. The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) celebrated another milestone in public service as it turned 40 on June 16, 2020. For the past four decades, the CFO has been part of the life-changing and challenging journey of Filipinos as they leave the shores of the motherland and pursue better lives and opportunities abroad.
CFO Secretary and Chairperson Justice Francisco P. Acosta (Ret.) said that “It is with great pride and honor leading an institution which has been providing quality programs and services catered to the unique needs of our overseas Filipinos around the world.”
Established in 1980 by virtue of Batas Pambansa 79, CFO is an agency under the Office of the President of the Philippines, tasked to promote and uphold the interests, rights and welfare of overseas Filipinos and strengthen their ties with the Motherland. Prior to becoming an independent agency, the Commission was first known as the “Immigrant Welfare Department” under the then Overseas Employment Development Board (now POEA) in 1974. Four years later, it was renamed as the “Office of Emigrant Affairs” under the then Ministry of Labor in 1978.
This year’s celebration was unique and veered away from the traditional social gathering among employees, institutional partners and stakeholders, given the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there was no disruption in public service on the day of the foundation anniversary; instead the Commission continued assisting its clients, especially those who were affected and made arrangements for their repatriation to the country.
CFO INITIATIVES DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Whether day or night, the CFO continues to assist repatriated EVP participants from the US
during the COVID-19 pandemic
Since the onset of the pandemic, CFO undertook several initiatives, despite its skeletal workforce, to ensure continued delivery of its services to the public. There was no let-up in the delivery of public services as operations shifted immediately online and available round the clock, even on weekends.
First, it provided temporary housing, food and transportation assistance to repatriated permanent migrants, Exchange Visitor Program participants and au pairs during the Enhanced Community Quarantine period in Luzon. It also coordinated with the Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Quarantine and the San Lazaro Hospital for the mandatory conduct of their Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) Test to determine their health status and see if they are positive or negative for the Covid-19 virus.
Second, it implemented contactless pre-departure services for its clients under the “New Normal” conditions. In March 2020, CFO launched the Overseas Filipino-CFO Online Registration System (OFCORS). It is an innovative project of the Commission in lieu of the mandatory physical registration of Filipino Emigrants, Spouses and Partners of Foreign Nationals, Au Pairs, and J1 Visa Holders in any of the CFO offices in Manila Main Office, satellite offices in Cebu City, Davao City, Clark City, and extension desk at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Third, it paid tribute to the fallen overseas Filipino heroes and heroines, who were bravely on the forefront in fighting COVID-19, as well as the various overseas Filipino organizations and individuals who continue to help one another in these challenging and trying times.
Fourth, as a member of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) and head of its Advocacy and Communications Committee, it implemented an online campaign against internet-related crimes targeting women and children which are expected to increase during this pandemic. These campaigns promoted awareness on the risk of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) and mail-order spouse schemes, and called for the public’s action to report these crimes to the 1343 Actionline Against Human Trafficking.
Fifth, it increased efforts to reach out and help CFO clients through its various social media platforms that include Official Facebook Pages of CFO, Peso Sense, Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas, BaLinkBayan, among others. Through the CFO FB Page, it was able to assist especially its distressed clients whose stay or travel abroad is affected by the pandemic. It also created “CFO Voice” – an online community of Filipino diaspora, where recent news, policies and public announcements affecting overseas Filipinos are shared.
Lastly, it implemented austerity measures, and remitted back P10.2 million of its savings to the national government. This is CFO’s contribution to address the COVID-19 pandemic, in support of the Bayanihan Act and President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to contain the pandemic.
CFO: 4 DECADES OF SERVING OVERSEAS FILIPINOS
A simple online thanksgiving mass kicked off CFO’s anniversary celebration. It was followed by a simple and intimate ceremony held at the CFO and hosted by CFO Executive Director, Usec. Astravel Pimentel-Naik. Secretary Acosta gave the keynote message, thanking Filipino communities abroad, partner institutions, and the media in supporting the programs and services of the Commission. He acknowledged the exemplary leadership of President Duterte and the significant contributions of frontliners and line agencies in fighting COVID-19 and assisting returning or repatriated overseas Filipinos because of the pandemic. He also said that he is “proud working alongside with the men and women of CFO, fulfilling our agency’s mandate and the President directive on bringing government services closer to overseas Filipinos.”
Part of the ceremony were presentation of an Audio Visual Presentation highlighting the personnel and accomplishments of the CFO in the last 40 years, and a special online song number dedicated to CFO by award-winning Pinoy music icon – Mr. Joey Ayala. Atty. Xerxes Cortel gave the closing remarks wherein he urged the men and women of CFO to continue delivering quality service to the public it serves. The whole event was shared thru the Commission’s online and social media platforms for overseas Filipinos to see.
While the CFO started its maiden work way back in 1980s mainly providing pre-departure services to emigrants, it has gone a long way in developing more comprehensive welfare service, and innovative migration and development programs for the Filipino diaspora. These include the Ugnayan with Filipino Communities Abroad, Diaspora Philanthropy or Lingkod Sa Kapwa Pilipino Program, Balinkbayan Web-Based Portal For OFs, Anti-Human Trafficking Program for OFs, Philippine Schools Overseas, Youth Leaders in the Diaspora or YouLead, Community Education Program on Migration, Mainstreaming Migration and Development at the Local Level, Presidential Awards for Outstanding Individuals and Organizations Overseas, Migration Advocacy and Media Awards, and Peso Sense Financial Literacy Program for OFs and their Families, among others. These are a testament of how the Philippine government prioritizes the sector of overseas Filipinos and honors their significant contributions to nation-building and development.
Usec. Pimentel-Naik said that “being at the forefront of formulating government policies for OFs, CFO has been central in integrating the realities of migration to national development.”
As CFO embarks on another challenging year, its leaders and employees assure that they will perform their duty in the government with full transparency and accountability; willing to go beyond and above the usual call of public service for the protection and improvement of the lives of overseas Filipinos.