Press Release
July 15, 2020

As number of distressed OFWs mounts, time to augment DFA assistance fund

Malacañang should augment the OFW assistance fund of the Department of Foreign Affairs, as the surge in Filipinos losing their jobs abroad has reduced the P1 billion fund to P300 million.

"That lifeline to our kababayans will be gone soon at the rate it is being utilized," Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said.

"The cost of repatriating an OFW from the Middle East is P35,000, on plane fare alone. So that plane carrying 350 passengers is chartered for P12 to 13 million," he said.

"Our hardworking ambassador to Saudi Arabia has said that repatriating our 80,000 distressed kababayans there will cost around P3.2 billion," Recto said.

While the price may be steep, "it is like a drop in the barrel of Saudi oil," if compared to their sacrifices for the country and contribution to the economy.

"Lest we forget them, we should remember that ours is an economy lubricated by the katas ng Saudi, the pawis of seafarers, and the tears of homesick Filipinas who have to leave their children behind," Recto said.

"Yang P35,000 na presyo ng ticket, mas malaki pa diyan ang annual free college cost ng isang estudyante sa state university," he said.

"These are our foreign working legions, our soldiers of the economy. It is our moral duty to bring them home to their families," he said.

"Makaraan ang mahabang taong sakripisyo, gusto na nilang umuwi sa mga bahay na kanilang pinundar, sa mga bayang tinulungan nilang lumago, sa mga anak na kanilang pinaaral," he said.

Recto said even if the President, "invoking his budgetary realignment powers," will release an additional P2 billion to the Assistance to Nationals (ATN) fund of the DFA, "that amount will be equivalent to what OFWs remitted in a mere 10 hours last year."

"Filipinos abroad sent home P1.7 trillion in 2019, or P4.6 billion per day. Pinoys in Saudi and UAE remitted P190 billion, bigger than the annual gross sales of Jollibee in 2018," Recto said.

Recto praised the understaffed and underfunded DFA and DOLE for repatriating almost 57,000 OFWs to date, "and they could have sent home more, if not for the flight restrictions imposed by the government task force on COVID-19."

"In the Philippines, a city of 1 million residents will be served by at least 5,000 government workers. In Saudi, they have 190 consular officers serving 1 million Filipinos in a country 7 times bigger in land area than the Philippines," Recto said.

"The chokepoint really is in the homeland they have sacrificed so much for and long to return to, where the number of arrivals is being controlled," Recto said.

"But the process is improving, the transit time is getting faster. We have to give credit where it is due, kasama na dito ang mga hotel workers na talaga namang nagsakripisyo sa pagtanggap ng mga OFWs," he said.

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