Press Release
August 8, 2006

P500 million in calamity fund for Mayon refugees
Help Filipinos running away from bombs or ashfall - Recto

With OWWA funds intact, government was told to use the P500 million that it is seeking from Congress for the evacuation of OFWs in Lebanon to Mayon relief efforts instead.

Or slice off a portion of the P500 million for Mayon. After all, that amount is being sought as a Calamity Fund, and one exists in Mayon now, whether it erupts or not, due to the mass evacuation of people, Sen. Ralph Recto said.

Filipinos must be helped whether theyre running away from bombs or from ashfall, he said.

Recto said government should be given the flexibility to apply the funds where it is most needed and that can be written in the language of the supplemental budget.

That way when the situation in Lebanon stabilizes but the one in Legazpi worsens, our officials would have wider discretion when it comes to deploying resources, he said.

This is not to downgrade the plight of our countrymen in Lebanon, but what has emerged so far in the Senate investigation is that the source of funding for their relocation has been identified, and that is the P7.2 billion of the OFWs pooled contributions to OWWA, he said.

Departing OFWs are required to pay a membership contribution of US$25.00 or its local currency equivalent on a per contract basis but shall not exceed two (2) years. The same amount shall be paid upon renewal of membership in the succeeding years.

The principal reason for the mandatory payment of the OWWA fee is that it is some sort of an insurance or a safety net that can bail you out when youre in trouble in some foreign land, he said.

/Kung di natin gagastusin yan, bakit pa tayo nangolekta sa mga /OFWs ? /Pang/-display /ba yang pondo na yan?/ he asked.

In contrast, funding for Mayon is at present nebulous. But if we are going to say in the

supplemental budget that the P500 million can be diverted to Mayon when the situation there worsens, then a standby fund is created, Recto said.

Pending in Congress is a P47 billion supplemental budget for this year, including a request for P500 million to augment what Budget officials have described as a depleted Calamity Fund.

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