Press Release
February 28, 2007

Recto bats for more 911 funds for OFW repatriation

SENATOR Ralph Recto has urged the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to allocate more funds for the repatriation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) during emergencies, armed conflicts and calamities.

Recto said for every P100 that OWWA collects from OFWs, it spends only 69 centavos, or less than one percent, for repatriation.

He cited the war between Israel and Lebanon, during which thousands of OFWs were virtually left to fend for themselves as the OWWA failed to release funds in time despite the critical situation.

In cases such as war or even outbreaks of epidemics, OWWA should not hesitate to spend its fund for the protection of our kababayans working abroad, Recto said. Only P56.4 million was spent during the 10-year period to bring back troubled OFWs home despite OWWAs income that reached P8.135 billion from 1995 to 2004, Recto added. Thats less than one percent, when the principal reason for the mandatory payment of the OWWA fee is that it is some sort of insurance or a safety net that can bail you out when youre in trouble in some foreign land, he said.

He said the reason why OFWs are paying OWWA fees is because they believe they would be protected while working overseas.

Departing OFWs are required to pay a membership contribution of $25 or its local currency equivalent on a per contract basis, but shall not exceed two years. The same amount shall be paid upon renewal of membership in succeeding years.

The fees collected are deposited in a trust fund that is outside congressional scrutiny insofar as the preparation of the national budget is concerned. OWWAs budget does not pass Congress.

Ironically, Recto said OWWA spent P1.8 billion for the salaries of its employees in the 10 years the P8.135 billion income was realized, compared to the microscopic 0.69 percent.

It also spent P1 billion from 1995 to 2004 for its operating expenses such as office supplies, utilities, office rent, gasoline and transportation.

Recto said OWWAs primary concern should be to ensure the safety and protection of the OFWs. Thus, it is only right to allocate funds for OFW repatriation in critical periods, like the recent war between Israel and Lebanon .

We must enact a law that would ensure the safety and protection of our OFWs during emergencies. We need to allocate funds for their safety, protection and repatriation, Recto said.

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