NEWS | OFWs call for budget raise on welfare services amid pandemic
By Yvette Lalaine Baroro
Migrante International (MI) demanded to prioritize the social protection and welfare services of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), Filipino migrants and their families by increasing the proposed 2021 national budget.
According to the group, only a total of ₱8.6 billion from both the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) is allotted to fund programs that seek to assist and support OFWs and migrants in distress.
“This amount will not be adequate to serve the thousands of OFWs who remain stranded overseas awaiting to be repatriated and the thousands who have still yet to receive any financial assistance from the government,” MI said.
Although the proposed budget for OWWA has significantly increased to ₱7.4 billion, the proposed 2021 budget of ₱1.2 billion for the DFA’s Assistance to Nationals (ATN) Program and Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) is only the same as in the 2020 budget.
“The proposed budget does not take into account the increased support needed for the millions of Filipino migrants who have been displaced and severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and who are in need of financial and livelihood assistance, welfare support, repatriation assistance and comprehensive health services,” MI added.
Slow Aid Distribution
To assist the OFWs displaced by the pandemic, the government planned to release the latest tranche of Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program starting November 16. AKAP is a one-time cash aid given by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to workers, whose employment was affected by the COVID-19.
Although DOLE allotted its ₱3.5 billion funds for AKAP, only 280,000 OFWs were granted financial assistance out of the estimated one million OFWs who were displaced in the past seven months.
“We therefore call on the Philippine Government to provide immediate financial assistance in the amount of ₱10K to all Filipino migrants, OFWs and their families affected by the pandemic regardless of status, by allotting an additional ₱7.2B for DOLE AKAP Program,” MI explained.
OFWs are dubbed as modern-day heroes because of their contribution to the national economy. Higher remittances by OFWs strengthen the value of the Philippine Peso, which means more worth relative to other currencies. In 2019, remittances from OFWs reached a high record of $33.9 billion, equivalent to about 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
However, they were still overlooked as thousands of OFWs who lost their jobs are yet to receive any financial assistance from the government.
“To recover from the pandemic, the people, especially overseas and local workers, farmers and the poor need an expenditure program that heals and unites,” MI concluded.