Press Release
January 25, 2016

Senate proposes to reform OWWA to protect welfare of OFWs

The Senate today approved on third and final reading a bill which would redefine the functions of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) as a national agency so it would get its funding from the national government instead of from the contribution of Filipino workers abroad.

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said that the structural reforms under the new measure is intended to help the OWWA better fulfill its mandate as the principal agency of the government which will serve and promote the interests and welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families.

Sen. Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara, acting chairman of the Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development and sponsor of Senate Bill No. 2955, said the proposed measure aims to redefine the functions of OWWA as a national agency so it can implement programs that are responsive to the OFWs and their families.

Presently, the OWWA stands halfway between being classified as a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) and as a national government agency (NHA).

According to the Commission on Audit, OWWA is a GOCC because it has been using the collection of its members to maintain its expenses since 1980, while for the Department of Budget and Management and the Commission on GOCCs, OWWA is a national government agency because it is mandated by the government to look after the welfare of the OFWs.

"May ilang katanungan sa kung sino ang nagmamay-ari sa pondo ng OWWA na ngayon ay mahigit sa P18 billion na. Sakali bang mawala ang OWWA, kanino mapupunta ang malaking halaga? Sa gobyerno ba? O ibabalik sa mga OFWs?" Angara said.

SBN 2955 proposes to declare OWWA as a national government agency and an attached agency of the Department of Labor and Employment "vested with a special function of developing and implementing welfare programs and services that respond to the needs of its member-OFWs and their families."

As such, the government should, under the bill, provide OWWA's budget to cover its operating expenses and employees' salaries, and OWWA employees should also be covered by the Salary Standardization Law.

It also proposes that OWWA programs should cover other OFWs who are not members of OWWA or undocumented OFWs, and that the reitegration of OFWs will be among the core programs of OWWA.

"OWWA board of trustees should also be reformed to really represent the OFW sector. At present, there are seven representatives from the government sector and only three from the OFW groups. With this bill, there will be six representatives from the government and five from the OFW sector," Angara said. (Pilar S. Macrohon)

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