Press Release
January 26, 2016

Jinggoy: Use OWWA Fund exclusively for OFW services

The Senate has approved on third and final reading on Monday a bill which allows the government to infuse much-needed financial resources to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) for its operating expenses and effectively boosts its capacity to carry out programs for the overseas Filipino workers.

The proposal is aimed at utilizing the OWWA Fund, which is pooled from US$25 membership fee payments of the migrant workers, exclusively for the welfare programs of the country's so-called "mga bagong bayani."

Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, the principal author of Senate Bill 2955 which is among his 10 priority bills, says that the proposal strengthens the mandate of the OWWA in taking full care, ensuring protection and providing timely assistance to all OFWs.

Section 55 of the bill provides that Congress shall annually appropriate funds for the personal services (PS) and maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) of the OWWA.

Meanwhile, the OWWA Fund shall only be used to serve the welfare of member-OFWs and their families and finance the core programs of OWWA including the reintegration program; repatriation assistance in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA); low-interest loans and credit assistance; provision of death, dismemberment, disability or burial benefits; workers assistance and on-site services such as pre-departure orientation seminars, psycho-social counseling and outreach missions; health care benefits; technical or vocational training scholarships and seafarers' upgrading program, among others.

The bill also does not prohibit the government from allocating funds for the implementation of programs and services for the OFWs.

According to the latest financial statement of OWWA for the year 2014, combined expenses for the PS and the MOOE eat up more than 40% of the OWWA's annual expenses. Such amount is almost equivalent to the allocation for OWWA programs and projects.

"The bill, in effect, doubles the funds available for welfare programs for our OFWs," Jinggoy, who presided over the initial public hearing of the bill last December 2013 in his capacity as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, said.

"With the increased budgetary support from the national government, there should be no reason for OFWs to feel neglected and abandoned in times of great need. Urgent assistance in all forms and packages, both proactive and responsive, should be available to all our OFWs across the world," Jinggoy said.

The bill is expected to be taken up by the bicameral conference committee, as the counterpart measure in the House of Representatives has been passed last October 2014.

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