OFWs join students in protesting budget cuts

Migrante International, an alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) worldwide, today expressed unity with students of state colleges and universities (SUC) who have recently held “strikes” against budget cuts.

OFWs are also opposing the budget cuts for funds for legal assistance (LAF) and assistance to nationals (ATN) in the 2011 Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) budget. The combined LAF and ATN funds have been slashed by 50 percent, the LAF decreased from P50 million this year to P27 million for 2011.

The LAF is earmarked to subsidize legal assistance for OFWs in distress while the ATN covers funds for repatriation, consular services and medical assistance, among others.

Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, said that it is lamentable that Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s “austerity measures” are being implemented at the expense of basic services.

Mukhang walang maaasahan ang ating mga kababayang OFW kay PNoy. Kung ito ang daang matuwid, bakit ang mga OFW ang namimilipit?,” he said.

“This is a gross violation of Republic Act 10022, or the amended Migrant Workers Act, formerly RA 8042. Kulang na nga binawasan pa,” he said. Martinez said that RA 10022 mandates that at least P100 million be allotted within the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) budget for legal assistance.

“Malacanang should definitely review its priorities. There are 108 OFWs facing death row, 7,000 Filipino nationals in jails abroad, at least 10,000 stranded and seeking repatriation in the Middle East alone,” he said.

DBM scored for “cover up”

Martinez said that likewise with the SUC budget, Malacanang has also played a “misleading spin” to cover-up the budget slash in appropriations for the LAF and ATN.

In a briefing with various OFW groups and advocates, the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) attempted to prove that there were no budget cuts by announcing that they would “carry over cash balances” from the 2009 LAF appropriations and “assumed cash balances” from the 2010 LAF to augment the P27 million proposed LAF new appropriations for 2011.

Martinez slammed this saying that all unreleased funds should be disbursed immediately to address urgent cases of OFWs in distress, especially those in death row and in need for immediate repatriation.

He also questioned the wisdom of assuming cash balances for the 2010 LAF “when the year is not even over yet and there are at least seven OFWs who are scheduled to be sentenced to death before the year ends”.

Martinez added, Without the actual cash balances, actual new appropriations for LAF would only amount to P54 million. Kaya sa aktwal, budget cut pa rin ito dahil nananatiling bumaba ang pondong ilalaan para sa LAF at ATN, mga tinuringang life line ng ating mga OFW. Huwag din ipagmayabang ng gobyerno ang pondo mula sa OWWA dahil hindi ito galing sa kanila kundi sa bulsa mismo ng mga OFW.” (Refer to table below)

Martinez also reiterated that “the DBM’s computation is another violation of RA 10022. The law clearly states that P100 million should be allocated for the LAF per fiscal year. It mandates that if the LAF does not reach P100 million, the National Treasury is obliged to release P30 million at least to achieve the mandated amount,” he said. (Refer to table below)

The DBM also declared that it had submitted an erratum to Congress “to increase the government allocation for LAF in 2011, as mandated by RA 10022 Migrants’ Act”. The move was in response to protests by OFWs all over the world against the budget cuts. To date, however, there has been no marked increase in the DFA budget and no amendments have been made in the proposed General Appropriations Act.

Martinez said that OFWs worldwide are in solidarity with student strikes and will join protests of students and other sectors against the budget cuts.

Migrante International has chapters and member OFW organizations in 90 countries all over the world. ###

 

Table I 

DBM computation Actual new appropriations
(P52.63M 2009 LAF cash balances)

 (P20M OWWA [But “OWWA has already allocated an initial P10M for 2010 “on a  staggered or ‘on need’ basis, according to the DBM])

P27.3 new appropriations for 2011 (P2.7M of which would come from ATN cash balances)

P30M GAA as per RA 10022

____________________

 TOTAL: P129.93M

 

OWWA funds are not government subsidy but OFW contributions

 

P24.6M new appropriations

P30M GAA as per RA 10022

_____________________

TOTAL: P54.6M

 

Table 2:

 

RA No. 10022 Budget, FY 2010-2011 (in million pesos)

Particulars 2010 GAA 2011 new appropriations
ATN 150.0 82.0
LAF 50.0 27.3 (-2.7 from ATN cash balances)

 

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