Global alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and families today held a lightning rally at the first Congress of the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration held at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia to protest the agency’s reintegration loan program.
The highlight of the OWWA Congress was the unveiling of a P2 billion reintegration program for returned OFWs and their families.
According to Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, “This reintegration loan package is an insult to OFWs because unlike other dole-out programs by the Aquino administration, the funds will come directly from OFW contributions, walang ilalabas na pondo ang gobyerno para rito.” OFWs are required to pay a $25 OWWA membership fee for every two-year contract.
“Ang OFW na ang siningil sila pa rin ang pagbabayarin sa pautang na galing mismo sa pagod at pawis nila. These loan packages do nothing to address massive unemployment and job generation for thousands of returned OFWs,” he said.
Scrap OWWA Omnibus Policies
Martinez also said that they are renewing calls to scrap the OWWA Omnibus Policies (OOP) implemented by the OWWA Board in 2003 without any consultations with OFWs and their families.
The migrant leader said that the OOP effectively transformed OWWA funds from a “trust fund” into an “investment fund”.
“OWWA funds have always been prone to misuse and abuse, but because of the OOP it has become more vulnerable to corruption. Kahit ano na lang pwedeng i-‘charge to OWWA’, kahit na wala namang kinalaman sa OFW welfare,” said Martinez.
He added that the OOP changed OWWA membership from lifetime to a per-contract basis and narrowed down services offered by the agency’s General Financial Assistance Program.
“Dati nang mahirap, lalong pinahirap. Dati nang makitid, lalo pang pinakitid. Sa OOP, talagang ginawang gatasan na lang ng gobyerno ang mga OFW.”
Martinez said that the OOP, abuse and misuse of OWWA funds and government neglect of OFWs are among the main issues they will bring to President Aquino’s attention on his second State of the Nation Address. ###