August 31, 2022
Today, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will present its 2023 proposed budget during the budget hearings at the House of Representatives. The DFA’s budget reveals a reduction in its allocation for Consular Services and Assistance to Nationals Program, P8.9 Billion for the year 2022 to only P8.5 Billion for the year 2023. This budget cut reflects the hypocrisy of the government in its slogan to protect the rights and promote the welfare of overseas Filipinos.
Instead of increasing its budget to attend to the urgent needs of distressed overseas Filipinos who are victims of unjust detention, exploitation and abuse, discrimination, human trafficking and are in need of legal assistance, temporary shelters, repatriation assistance and other forms of welfare services, the Marcos Jr. administration ignores all these while maintaining the Philippine record of being one of the major labor exporters in the world in keeping with the four decades long Labor Export Program (LEP) instituted since the Marcos Sr. dictatorship.
The severe effects of the global economic crises continues to affect the lives of Filipinos and their families with the continuing rise in prices of basic commodities, transportation, education, medicine and utilities among others. Many displaced and repatriated Filipino migrants are forced again to leave the country in order to survive. However, Filipino migrants cannot escape from the effects of the continued global recession when they are also suffering from the Philippine government’s move to privatize its services such as the renewal of passports abroad. This has significantly increased and in some cases doubled the amount of fees that Filipino migrants pay, aggravating their already fraught economic conditions. It is a fact that production of passports is being funded through the GAA, hence, passport costs must be put at par with the passport fees charged in the Philippines.
In addition, we demand for the opening of a full-Consular office in Cyprus and other countries and territories with an increasing population of Filipinos. Likewise, services of Foreign Post Personnel must be ensured and flexible, depending on the availability and stipulated day-off of the majority of our Kababayans in the host country.
Moreover, the budget for Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) should be higher given that many overseas Filipinos were disenfranchised in the previous May 2022 elections. A higher budget allotted for OAV would ensure more qualified voters can participate in the electoral process and their democratic right to suffrage will be protected through the regular conduct of information dissemination and outreach campaigns.
Data from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) or Central Bank of the Philippines show that overseas Filipino workers (OFW) remittances reached USD2. 4 billion (PHP124. 5 billion) in April 2022, up 3.9% from April 2021. The increase in remittances was due to the growth in receipts from land-based and sea-based workers who took advantage of the higher foreign exchange rate to send the much needed support to their loved ones.
Clearly, the remittances of Filipinos overseas contribute greatly to solving the country’s economic problems. Hence, it is the government’s responsibility to protect them and uphold their rights and ensure they receive timely, comprehensive and adequate services.
Finally, the PH government must stop its Labor Export Program and instead focus its energy and resources in creating more jobs locally which can provide decent salaries and security of tenure.##