Gabriela Women’s Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas isn’t sure if the P1.2-billion allocation to the Department of Migrant Workers’ (DMW) Aksyon Fund is enough to support the needs of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
During the House Committee on Appropriations’ hearing for the 2023 DMW budget, it was revealed that only P1.2 billion had been set aside for the agency’s Aksyon Fund.
“Sinabi niyo kanina may P3.5 billion kayo (You said earlier that you had P3.5 billion). Given such amount, matutugunan ba talaga yung pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayan sa iba’t ibang bansa? Sa P3.5-billion (Can you really act on the needs of our countrymen abroad? With P3.5 billion)?” Brosas asked the DMW Undersecretary for Finance and Internal Affairs Maria Anthonette Velasco during the budget hearing on Thursday, Sept. 8.
Velasco explained that it wasn’t actually P3.5 billion, but only P1.2 billion.
The total budget of the fledgling DMW Office of the Secretary under the 2023 National Expenditure Program (NEP) is P3,509,805,000. Meanwhile, the OWWA was allocated P11,700,467,000 under the spending plan.
“Yung P3.5 billion will fund the entire requirements of the Office of the Secretary of the DMW, for the Aksyon Fund, nasa P1.2-billion muna for 2023 (it’s only at P1.2-billion for 2023),” Velasco said.
“This fund is meant also to be supplemented by the OWWA since sila talaga yung direct implementor ng mga welfare and protective services (because they are the direct implementers of welfare and protective services),” the DMW executive said.
Brosas, unconvinced, asked “Kasya ba yan sa pangangailangan ng ating mga OFWs (Is that enough to service the needs of our OFWs)?”
Velasco, aware of the meager budget, explained how the Aksyon Fund would be supplemented by the OWWA and through outside benefactors.
“We acknowledge the limited fiscal space that’s there for the national government agencies…We really are closely working with the OWWA and the Aksyon Fund is meant to supplement those who are non-OWWA members. Kaya po isang strategy namin ay to forge partnerships with private sector, NGOs (non-government agencies) and other like-minded groups (That’s why one of our strategies is to forge partnerships with the private sector, and NGOs),” Velasco explained.
“Pero kung madadagdagan po nyo maam, di po kami tatanggi (But if you can increase it, we won’t say no),” she added.
Brosas, who belongs to the minority bloc, frowned over the meager budget for OFWs.
“Alam niyo po kasi yung (Do you know that the) budget for our OFWs, 0.28 percent of the total NEP, 0.06 percent share to GDP [gross domestic product]. Kumpara po natin sa kontribusyon ninyo, 8.9 percent ang kontribusyon ng OFWs sa GDP natin. Sa remittances po malaki tapos ganyan po yung ibabalik natin sa ating mga overseas workers. Nakakalungkot po (Compare this to our OFW’s contribution of 8.9 percent to our country’s GDP. They contribute large remittances and this what we give back to our overseas workers. It is saddening),” she concluded.
The Aksyon Fund is used by the DMW to provide legal assistance and aid to distressed OFWs. It is separate from the Assistance to Nationals Fund (ANF) and the Legal Assistance Fund under the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW).
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