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MANILA, Philippines – The newly created department catering to the needs and welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) inches closer to having its very first annual budget of P16.09 billion, as the Senate approved its proposed 2023 budget on Friday, November 11.
Bulk of the P16.09 billion is allotted to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), an attached agency of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), at P11.77 billion. The remaining P4.32 billion was approved for the Office of the Secretary.
The interpellations for the DMW budget began past 1 am on Friday at the tail end of marathon debates for other agencies which began earlier on Thursday, November 10. Migrant Workers Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople, a cancer survivor, stayed in the plenary hall the whole day, waiting for her department to be taken up.
This will be the DMW’s first budget, as former president Rodrigo Duterte signed the law creating the department in December 2021. The department has been operating in transition for 2022.
Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, sponsor of the DMW’s budget, called the budget hearing “historic.” Spirits were high in the plenary hall as also present were senators Joel Villanueva and Bong Go, who were proponents of the OFW department bills in the previous Congress.
During interpellations, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano asked for data on OFW remittances. Ejercito reported that OFWs had sent P2.093 trillion in cash remittances from 2017 to 2021. Cayetano extended the estimate to around P4 trillion in total contributions, as OFWs would also be spending on housing and goods in the Philippines apart from the cash remittances sent directly to their families.
“So I know it’s the first year, I know it is simply organizational…. I’m not criticizing the good that has been done. I’m just saying, vis-a-vis the P4 trillion na kinita for the OFWs, ano ba naman ‘yung bigyan natin ng P25-, or P30-, or P50-billion budget na completos recados?” said Cayetano.
(I’m just saying, vis-a-vis the P4 trillion that OFWs earned, it should be no big deal for us to give them a complete P25-, P30-, or P50-billion budget?)
Ejercito also reported the P500 million lawmakers added this year to the operations of the OFW Hospital in Pampanga, as well as plans that the DMW had with the Department of Health in putting up OFW wings in existing public hospitals. Provinces with high concentrations of OFWs and their families will be high priority in having their own OFW hospital wings.
The Senate will continue to deliberate on the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023 until next week. – Rappler.com