OFWs will only get 0.17% share of P1.8T 2012 budget

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) raked in USD $18 billion remittances by yearend 2010 but will only get less than one percent share in the 2012 national budget.

In the proposed P1.8 trillion budget, direct services for OFWs from concerned government agencies will only amount to not more than P3.14 billion or a measly 0.17 % of the total budget, according to global alliance Migrante International.

Budget for OFW welfare and services suffered an 18% decrease (P792 million) from last year’s P3.8 million allotted for specific items in the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Department of Justice (DOJ) as lead agency of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) and the Office of the President (OP).

 Budget cuts

Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez said that cuts were made in the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) of items concerning direct services for welfare and protection of OFWs in the DOLE and POEA budgets.

Agency/Item Personal Services MOOE Capital Outlay Total
  2011 2012 2011 2012 2011 2012 2011 2012
DOLE:

Workers’ Protection and Welfare Services to OFWs

P214.3M P218.02M P188.2M P186.7M

 

0 P2.07M P402.59M P406.85M
POEA:

Welfare Assistance and Overseas Placement

P19.4M P21.3M P22.5M P21.09M 0 0 P42.06M P42.4M

In the DFA budget, on the other hand, there is a P90.5 million increase in the MOOE but it is intended mainly for payment of debts incurred from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) for emergency repatriation and other emergencies, namely the crisis in Libya and multiple disasters in Japan, during the first half of 2011.

“Without the P90.5 million as debt payments to OWWA, funds for welfare services in the DFA would only amount to P3.05 billion or P792 million less than funds allotted in 2011”, Martinez said.

He also pointed out that in the DFA budget, apart from the P30 million minimum amount for the legal assistance fund (LAF) under the item “implementation of RA 10022, or the amended RA 8042 (Migrants’ Act)”, funds for assistance to nationals (ATN) are mysteriously unstated.

The LAF is for legal assistance for OFWs in distress, especially those in jail and death row; while the ATN is earmarked for services such as repatriation and medical assistance. RA 10022 mandates that at least P100 million should be allotted for the LAF.

Martinez questioned lack of transparency in the 2012 national budget saying that it is contrary to the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) statement that there will be no lump-sum funds. “By not explicitly stating how much will be allotted to the LAF and ATN, OFWs fear that intended funds will once again be overlooked, or worse, be vulnerable to corruption and misuse,” he said.

It can be remembered that Migrante International exposed budget cuts in the LAF and ATN budgets for the 2011 DFA budget resulting in the DBM admitting its “error” and promising to submit an “erratum” to Congress. However, no erratum was made and the DBM attempted to cover-up the budgets cut by saying that it will utilize so-called “cash balances” from ATN savings from 2009 and 2010.

“Even the utilization of these cash balances are questionable now, when the DFA had to borrow P90.5 million from the OWWA just to be able to do its job,” Martinez said.

He added that despite new appropriations for anti-human trafficking and overseas disaster preparedness, in the DOJ and OP respectively, overall allotment for OFW welfare and services still suffered a big decrease. Also, said funds are in lump-sum and it is unclear how and where they will be specifically used.

Budget to intensify labor export

Martinez said that while funds for welfare and services for OFWs decreased, increases were made in the DOLE and POEA budgets mainly for their “marketing and job placement” purposes.

 

Agency/Item Personal Services MOOE Capital Outlay Total
2011 2012 2011 2012 2011 2012 2011 2012
DOLE:

Verification of overseas employment documents

P85.7M P91.9M 0 P18M P85.7M P109.9M
POEA:

Overseas employment promotion services

P31.7M P34.9M P15.3M P17.8M 0 0 P47.03M P52.7M
POEA:

Licensing and regulations services

P32.5M P35.5M P16.8M P24.6M 0 0 P49.3M P60.09M

 

He said that the 2012 budget is no different from previous budgets. “The 2012 budget is meant to further intensify the government’s labor export policy despite declarations from Malacanang that it will focus on local job generation and more incentives for returned OFWs to address forced migration.”

OFWs among least priorities

“There is also no indication in the 2012 budegt that the government is preparing for an even worse crisis that is foreseen to beset OFWs in light of the Saudization program, the global debt crisis and the ongoing conflicts in the MENA region,” Martinez said.

He decried “mis-prioritization” in the 2012 national budget, resulting in a mere P261.83 per capita spending for the total number of 12 million OFWs worldwide. “This is a far cry from the billions of dollars of remittances we rake in and the profit the government makes from OFWs through various fees and charges.”

Compared to other allocations such as debt-servicing, privatization (through PPP), unsustainable dole-outs, military budget and other “white elephants”, direct services for OFWs are among the least funded in the 2012 budget.

Martinez said that budget for OFW services is only 0.43% of the debt-servicing budget, 3% of the military budget, 14% of PPP funds,  and 1.9% of the presidential unprogrammed funds, deemed as Aquino’s pork barrel.

Martinez said that OFWs and families of OFWs in distress will kick off lobbying efforts in Congress and protest actions to call for higher budget for OFW services and welfare. ###

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