Budget cuts may hurt DOLE programs for OFWs, displaced workers in 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The P1.9-billion decrease in the proposed budget of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for 2020 will significantly hurt its programs benefiting overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and displaced workers, as well as students who want to intern in government offices. 

On Wednesday, September 4, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III told the House committee on appropriations that they initially wanted to propose a P20-billion budget for 2020. But the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) reduced their proposal to just P14.42 billion.

The figure is 12% or about P1.94 billion lesser than DOLE's 2019 budget of P16.36 billion. (READ: 2020 budget priorities: Infrastructure, social services, peace and security)

A total of 12 programs under DOLE's Office of the Secretary saw budget cuts, including a P1.16-billion cut from the budget of the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (Tupad), from P5.05 billion in 2019 to P3.88 billion in the proposed 2020 budget. 

The government internship program will also see a P1.04-billion decrease – equal to a 219% drop – in its budget, from P1.51 billion in 2019 to just P474 million in 2020.

DOLE's on-site welfare services for OFWs will also be affected, as the proposed budget for 2020 was reduced by P108 million to P1.27 billion.

The other DOLE programs that will be affected by the budget decrease are the following, based on Bello's presentation during the budget hearing:

Bello said the DBM had decreased the allocations for DOLE's programs because of the latter's absorptive capacity or its ability to maximize its financial resources.

"Ang sinasabi nila, your honor, is 'yung absorptive capacity namin (They're saying it's because of our absorptive capacity). But we are proven by our track record, your honor, that our utilization is 92%," said Bello. 

1-Pacman Representative Enrico Pineda was disappointed by the huge decrease in Tupad's budget, saying he would support any proposal to increase its allocation.

"Imbis na P5 billion, dapat dagdagan pa nga po dapat eh! Marami hong nakikinabang diyan sa aming mga constituents," said Pineda.

(Instead of just P5 billion, the budget for this should even be increased! So many of our constituents benefit from this program.)

Bello then asked the House appropriations committee to increase the DOLE budget by P4 billion to P5 billion, while he was being interpellated by Baguio City Representative Mark Go.

"With all due respect to our DBM, I think our department deserves more, especially considering that our department operation is contributing a lot in terms of the economic condition of our country," said Bello.

Go said he would support the proposed budget increase. 

"We will be guided accordingly with this and I support the proposal of my colleagues here to increase the budget of the DOLE from P14 billion to P18.5 billion for 2020," said Go. 

In the same budget hearing, DOLE officials were slammed for their lack of baseline data on the total number of contractual workers. 

Members of the House committee on appropriations have also vowed to increase the allocations for the Department of Tourism, whose proposed budget was slashed by P800 million by the DBM. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives 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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