Press Release
October 8, 2006

Jinggoy warns that bad investments
may turn OWWA into another RSBS

OPPOSITION stalwart Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada yesterday warned workers that investments made by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) should be "closely monitored" to prevent losses that could turn the pension fund into another bankrupt Retirement and Separation Benefits System (RSBS) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Estrada, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor and Employment, said the Commission on Audit (COA) is monitoring the OWWA that now has about P7.4 billion deposited in several banks and placed in investments. COA said that the welfare agency is not yet bankrupt.

"Maghihintay pa ba tayong ma-bankcrupt yung OWWA? Isa ito sa mga dahilan kung bakit nais kong pa-imbestigahan ang OWWA fund upang makagawa tayo ng paraan para hindi mapunta sa wala ang mga kontribusyon ng mga overseas Filipino workers o OFWs," Estrada said.

He said the OWWA should be careful in investing the money of OFWs to avoid turning the agency into the failed military pension fund RSBS.

The government would shutdown operations of RSBS on Dec. 31, 2006 after the pension fund lost billions in bad investments in real estate and a golf course.

The workers contribution at OWWA should be protected through the close monitoring of the investments and other financial transactions of the welfare funds management, Estrada said.

He said that OWWA had made questionable transactions in the past, and to prevent bankruptcy similar to RSBS, the members of the welfare fund should be more vigilant to protect the assets of the welfare fund which is intended for the benefit of OFWs and their families.

Among the controversial deals entered into by the welfare fund include the transfer of the P530-million Medicare Fund for OFWs to the Philippine Health Corp. (PhilHealth) and the P664 million invested on the Smokey Mountain Project Participation Certificates (SMPPC) issued by R-II Builders, developer of the housing project at the former Smokey Mountain dump in Tondo, Manila.

Dapat manmanan ang pondo ng OWWA para maprotektahan ang kapakanan ng mga manggagawa at hindi matulad ang welfare fund sa RSBS, Estrada said.

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