Recto: Newly-approved OFW repatriation fund not enough
MANILA, Philippines – As the two houses hammer out the country’s P3.35 trillion national budget, the Senate gave the go signal on the proposed additional P100-million 'emergency repatriation fund' for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to be given to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in 2017.
Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto, however, says the approved funding from the national budget is not enough and should only be used as a “component of a bigger help fund for OFWs,” which he said must reach at least P1.5 billion - almost 3 times bigger than what the Palace proposed for 2017.
The Duterte administration has already asked the Congress to allocate P50 million to DOLE, P31 million to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) for OFW repatriation. This is on top of their proposed P400 million Assistance to Nationals Fund and P100 million Legal Assistance Fund for the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“Pagsamahin mo lahat ito, P580 million lang. Kulang na kulang ito sa pangangailangan ng mga OFWs natin na kailangang umuwi sa panahon ng sakuna at kagipitan,” Recto pointed out.
(Put them all together and you get only P580 million. This is not enough for the needs of OFWs who need to return in time of disasters and struggles.)
Recto challenged administration lawmakers to raise the amount as there are many more “out-of-luck and out-of-cash” OFWs waiting to be reunited with their families in the Philippines.
Recto said that the 2017 OFW repatriation fund is “mere 4 hours worth of all OFW remittances” using as basis the $28.48 billion overseas Filipinos sent home last year.
“’Yang P500 million, ‘yan ang remittance ng mga kababayan natin sa Hong Kong sa loob lamang ng apat na araw at limang oras. P500 million is also what OFWs in Italy remit to their homeland in just 12 days,” Recto said. “Half a billion pesos is our katas ng Saudi in less than 34 hours.”
(That P500 million is the remittance of our countrymen in Hongkong in just only 4 days and 4 hours and what OFWs in Italy remit to their homeland in just 12 days. Half a billion pesos is the fruit of our countrymen’s labor in Saudi in just 34 hours.")
The senator also said Congress needs to find other sources for OFW repatriation since OWWA spends only 69 centavos, or less than one percent, for repatriation out of every P100 that the agency collects from OFWs.
Citing a Commission on Audit report, Recto noted that OWWA “issued a measly 119 plane tickets for repatriated OFWs last year" despite spending almost P1.8 billion. Out of this, only P17 million was used for the purchase of the 119 airline tickets. – Rappler.com