Upon the invitation of the British Group Inter-Parliament Union, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go joined Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senator Grace Poe as they represented the Philippine Senate during an official visit to the United Kingdom from October 16 to 18.
The visit, led by SP Zubiri and Sen. Poe as co-heads of delegation, was Go’s first visit to the UK. The invitation was aimed at strengthening relations of the Philippine Senate with its parliament counterparts in UK through a series of dialogues to exchange best practices in policymaking while strengthening bilateral relations, fostering economic security, and exploring areas of cooperation between the two countries.
Go, who is Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, vice chairperson of the Senate Committee on Migrant Workers and member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, also maximized the visit to highlight efforts in promoting the welfare of more than 200,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the UK particularly the more or less 40,000 Filipino nurses working there.
On October 19, after his official functions, Go was invited by OFW groups who are members of the Filipino community in the UK to a meet-and-greet at the Romulo Café & Restaurant in London. The groups were comprised of Filipinos working and residing in London who came from various parts of the Philippines. Some were fellow Davaoenyos, Ilocanos, Bicolanos, Ilonggos, among others, including those from Filipino Muslim communities.
While witnessing the camaraderie of the Filipino community there, he provided tokens to the OFW leaders present. He expressed, “ikinagalak ko na makasama kayo ngayon. Kung anuman ang maitutulong ko, nandito po ako na handang magserbisyo sa inyo sa abot ng aking makakaya.”
“Actually, this is my first time to be here sa London, sa United Kingdom. Isinama po ako ni SP Migz Zubiri, we had a fruitful meeting with our counterparts sa parliament dito,” Go shared.
“We had the opportunity to meet with the Speaker of the Lords and the Speaker of the Commons. At marami po kaming natutunan,” he shared.
He took this opportunity to highlight the establishment of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), a significant stride when it comes to addressing the concerns of OFWs.
“Gusto kong ibalita sa inyo na as one of the authors and co-sponsors ng Department of Migrant Workers Act, mayroon na po kayong departamento na nakatutok po sa inyo. Prayoridad ito ni dating pangulong Rodrigo Duterte noong termino niya at naisabatas natin ito sa tulong ng aking mga kasamahan sa Senado at Kongreso,” he shared.
Go was one of the authors and co-sponsors of the Senate version of Republic Act No. 11641, which created the DMW. The law streamlined the organization and functions of all government agencies related to overseas employment and migration through the creation of the DMW.
Go also mentioned that he has filed Senate Bill No. (SBN) 2297, seeking to institutionalize the OFW Hospital and ensure its continuous operation. 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.
The OFW Hospital, a donation from the provincial government of Pampanga, commenced its operations in May 2022. It consists of six floors and can accommodate 100 beds, primarily intended for the use of OFWs and their eligible dependents. There is also a Malasakit Center there.
“Naisakatuparan po ang pangarap natin na magkaroon ng sariling departamento, ito pong Department of Migrant Workers. Co-sponsor po ako diyan at isa sa mga author… pangarap natin ito noon na naisakatuparan na ngayon. Hindi na po siya panaginip lamang,” he earlier shared.
“Ang pangarap natin magkaroon ng isang OFW hospital, naisakatuparan din. Hindi na po panaginip. At mayroon na rin po tayong Malasakit Center sa inyong OFW Hospital. Pero hindi po diyan nagtatapos ang ating pakikipaglaban para sa ating OFWs. Patuloy nating susuportahan at isusulong ang kapakanan ninyo,” he added.
Go also filed SBN 2414, establishing OFW wards in Department of Health (DOH) hospitals. If passed into law, every hospital under the Department of Health (DOH) across the country will have a specialized ward for OFWs and their family members who require hospitalization.
The senator also shared that during his meetings with his counterparts in the UK parliament, he was able to raise some concerns of Filipino nurses particularly in terms of protecting their welfare, promoting their rights to proper benefits and compensation, as well as in ensuring a safe working environment for them in the UK.
“Ako naman as chairman ng Committee on Health sa Senado, full support po ako sa ating mga medical frontliners,” Go said as he also commended Filipino medical frontliners in the UK, particularly nurses whom he lauded as among the finest globally.
It can be recalled that Filipina-British Nurse May Parsons, who became known globally for administering the first COVID-19 vaccine, was a recipient of the UK’s George Cross Award. Go earlier co-sponsored Senate Resolution No. 320 recognizing and commending the achievement of Parsons.
The senator then underlined his enduring commitment to be of service to his countrymen, a pledge he shared with former president Rodrigo Duterte.
“Nandirito lang po ako, bukas po ang aking opisina sa ating mga kababayang Pilipino. Mahal na mahal po namin kayong mga OFWs ni Tatay Digong noon pa man hanggang ngayon po,” said Go.
“Kayo po ang mga bagong bayani ng ating bansa. Nandirito po kami na handang magserbisyo po sa inyong lahat sa abot ng aking makakaya. Ingat po kayo parati at magdasal tayo,” concluded Go.
During the visit to London, the senators, together with Philippine Ambassador to the United Kingdom Teodoro “Teddy” Locsin Jr., also attended the launching of the art exhibit entitled “Dancing with Glory” at the Philippine Embassy in London which was jointly organized by The Embassy of the Philippines and Sentro Rizal London, in collaboration with One East Asia Gallery. Go expressed his gratitude towards the embassy and its officials, thanking them for the warm welcome and for their service in promoting the interests of the country and the welfare of Filipinos in the UK.
Image credits: Bibo Nueva España/Senate PRIB