DFA warns OFW repatriation funds likely depleted by mid-August

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the P1 billion fund it is tapping to repatriate overseas Filipinos workers (OFWs) during the coronavirus pandemic is now down to P232.9 million.

DFA Undersecretary Sarah Arriola reiterated on Tuesday, July 14, her earlier warning to the House committee on public accounts that the DFA’s assistance-to-nationals fund would likely be depleted by August given the number of OFWs they are bringing home. (READ: LIVE: House hearing on OFW repatriation program)

“We just want to say that the P1-billion assistance-to-nationals fund of the DFA is now down to P232.9 million. So we have 23.2% remaining. So it will be, I think half of this will be used for the next two weeks and, by mid-August, we will not have funds anymore,” Arriola said.

Still, Arriola said Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr gave the assurance that he would be authorizing the realignment of several funds under the DFA budget to ensure there would be enough funds to repatriate all OFWs affected by the pandemic. 

“Through the generosity of Secretary Locsin, he says that he is going to realign our budget for retrofitting,” Arriola said. 

She also assured OFWs that DFA would do everything in its power to bring all of them back to the Philippines.

"Pero 'wag po silang mag-alala. Hanggang sa kahuli-hulihang sentimo po ng DFA, gagamitin natin to repatriate everyone," said Arriola.

(But they should not worry. The DFA will spend down to the last cent to repatriate everyone.

As of Monday, July 13, the DFA had been able to bring home 82,057 Filipinos from 60 countries and 132 cruise ships. Of this number, 38,308 were sea-based OFWs, while the 43,749 were employed in land-based jobs. 

Arriola said the DFA was eyeing to repatriate another 50,577 OFWs by the end of July, yet over 117,000 would remain stranded in different countries abroad. 

The DFA is not alone in dealing with the problem of depleting funds. Overseas Workers Welfare Administration chief Hans Cacdac told senators last June 24 that the agency’s P18.8 billion fund – which comes from OFW contributions – may go down to P10 billion by the end of 2020 due to the current costs of response. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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