11 November 2023
Migrante International condemns the House of Representatives for approving a General Appropriations Bill that increases the government budget for labor export while decreasing its budget for services for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
The proposed national budget approved by Congress starkly illustrates how the Ferdinand Marcos Jr government treats OFWs: as milking cows of remittances for the country’s fledgling economy and as slaves not worthy of services and protection.
For the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), the proposed budget of the Budget Department in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) is P3.6 billion, lower than the 2023 national allocation of P4.2 billion. Despite this, Congress approved a P6.1 billion allocation for the office, a whopping 82% budget increase.
Meanwhile for the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), which goes to the services for OFWs, the NEP proposes a subsidy of P12 billion for 2024, higher than the P11.7 billion budget for 2023. Despite this, Congress approved a P6.7 billion budget for OWWA, a staggering 44% budget cut.
The OWWA budget cut only means that the government is abandoning OFW services to OFW themselves. OFWs are left alone to pay for services that we need and avail through our OWWA contributions even as we also pay for other state exactions and our families pay various taxes.
For us, the budget proposed by Congress for OFWs and migrant Filipinos is unacceptable. The Marcos Jr government encourages labor export through DMW while keeping OFWs and migrant workers high and dry when we need services.
The following DMW programs for labor export received budget hikes: Licensing and Regulation Services subprogram (additional P15 million), Labor Migration Policy and International Cooperation Program (additional P20 million), at Maritime Research and Skills Competency Program (additional P54 million).
Debacle after debacle has exposed the Marcos government’s slow and inadequate response to OFWs’ needs: the spike in Filipina deaths and distressed OFWs in Kuwait, the virtual absence of the Philippine Embassy when Israel escalated attacks in Palestine, the snail-paced action on the victims of illegal recruitment scams, among others.
At the same time, the Marcos Jr government wants to curtail migrant activism and pocket more corruption money by deploying Philippine National Police attaches in various countries in the world. ###