On Filipino Migrants Day “Trabaho hindi pautang!” OFWs slam gov’t reintegration loan program

Global alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and families today held a rally at the Philippine Trade Training Center (PTTC) where the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) held a whole-day activity in time for the 17th National Migrants Day.

The highlight of the OWWA Celebration was a jobs fair and the promotion of the government’s reintegration program for returned OFWs and their families.

According to Gina Esguerra, Migrante International secretary-general, “The government’s reintegration program is a sham. There is a lack of comprehensive and sustainable reintegration program for returned OFWs. What the Aquino government offers are mere dole-outs and band-aid solutions that are not long-term solutions to unemployment, low wages and lack of social services. Most of the government’s reintegration programs for returned OFWs are made up of loans and one-time livelihood programs.”

Most recently, returned OFWs have been complaining about the P2 billion OWWA reintegration program that Aquino inaugurated in 2011 because of its stringent requirements for collateral and onerous interest rates.

She added, “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,” she said.

Scrap OWWA Omnibus Policies

Esguerra 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. She 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 Esguerra.

She 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.”

Esguerra 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 State of the Nation Address.###