Migrante to lawmaker on doubling OWWA fee: Let’s sit down and we’ll explain it to you

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos and families Migrante International today invited Rep. Trisha Bonoan-David to a “sit-down talk” concerning the lady solon’s filing of House Bill 6195 seeking to double OFWs’ OWWA contributions from $25 to $50 per contract.

“We do not know who Rep. Bonoan-David has been consulting but while her intentions may be noble, the bill is definitely unwelcome to OFWs. While there is indeed a need to increase funds for repatriation of OFWs in distress, it should not be passed unto OFWs,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.

Martinez said that since the effectivity of OWWA Resolution No. 038 or the OWWA Omnibus Policies in 2003 which made OWWA contributions mandatory, OFWs have obligated to pay the $25 membership dues per contract.

“She may have been misinformed. We strongly propose that she re-think the bill after conducting consultations with OFWs and other stakeholders. We will be more than willing to sit down with her and explain to her our basis for strong opposition to the bill,” Martinez said.

Martinez added that they also seek to enlighten Rep. Bonoan-David on why their group has long been calling for a “full audit” and “immediate and independent investigation” of OWWA funds in light of many unresolved issues of abuse, misuse and corruption.

Last year, a report by the Commission on Audit (COA) revealed that OWWA’s overseas officers failed to remit more than P21 million in collections to OWWA’s Land Bank-Manila dollar account during the last ten years.

In 2006, then AFP Chief of Staff Roy Cimatu botched a rescue mission funded by OWWA during the Lebanon crisis. The OWWA released P150 million for the repatriation of OFWs but out of the 6,000 OFWs there, only 1,000 were repatriated by Cimatu.

The incident prompted several Senate hearings and it was then discovered that P6.8 billion of OWWA funds were transferred to the Development Bank of the Philippines and Landbank of the Philippines (P3.4 billion each) without any consultations with the OFW sector.

Former solicitor general Atty. Frank Chavez also filed a case at the DOJ against former president Gloria Arroyo for alleged misuse, re-channel and charge to OWWA funds various projects that had nothing to do with OFWs, among them the supposed evacuation of Filipinos from Iraq, Kuwait and Afganistan in 2003. “(Since) no actual evacuation of Filipino took place, (but) where did the money go?”

“These cases remain unresolved and unless a full audit takes place OFWs have reason to believe that OWWA funds are not trickling down to much-needed service to OFWs,” Martinez said.

Martinez said that an increase in repatriation funds should mean additional government subsidy in the national budget and not additional burden to OFWs. He said that it is one item that should be of utmost priority in the proposed 2013 national budget.###