Proposed 2024 budget: low on migrant services, high on anti-people priorities

Press Statement
22 August 2023

The Bongbong Marcos government’s proposed 2024 national budget is low on services for migrant Filipinos but high on its anti-people priorities such as debt servicing, repression, and corruption. 

We decry this budget. It disregards much-needed services to migrants and the poor. It prioritizes the debt payments to foreign powers and the loot of top military officers and big bureaucrats. 

We know that Bongbong has been stubborn in sticking to his wrong-headed priorities and the legislature has been serving as his rubber stamp. Still, we call on the government to prioritize services for migrants and poor Filipinos.

The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) suffers a slight decrease (16B in 2023 to 15.4B in 2024), and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), which administers migrant services, enjoys an increase (11.7B to 11.9B). 

Despite this, the actual budget that will go to overseas employment and welfare program is only a meager section of the total budget (2.8B in 2024). The DMW even projects that the number of program beneficiaries in 2024 will be the same as in 2023 (more than 1 million). While total staffing is only 506 or 28% of 1,785 for 2024 are filled position. So how can we expect an adequate services to be provided to our kababayan with very few staff available.

Our chapters report that Filipino migrants continue to suffer so many services deficits, including the following:

  • In many countries, the operating hours of Philippine government offices tasked to provide migrant services do not match with the availability of Filipino migrant workers. 
  • Delays and deficits in legal, financial, medical, humanitarian and other forms of assistance such as repatriation, shipment of remains, evacuation and rescue whenever emergencies occur.  
  • Migrant Filipinos still pay for passport and consular services. The government hires a third party to speed up the process but imposes a higher charge. Can the government simply speed up the processes?
  • In Gulf countries, OFWs filing complaints against employers pay for the translation of their documents. 
  • Distressed OFWs receive groceries support only once. 
  • Many OFWs need legal services and the processes for accessing these must be made transparent even as the DMW budget includes the Legal Assistance Fund.
  • Filipino workers in Gulf countries were reportedly queuing under scorching hot weather conditions in availing consular and labor related services from Philippine Foreign Missions and migrant workers offices. Despite a series of reported heat strokes affecting OFWs, concerned Philippine officials remain unresponsive to such inhuman conditions.

Instead of prioritizing migrant Filipinos’ service’s needs, the Bongbong government shows that it is overly concerned with criticism and opposition from migrant Filipinos. It has created the Office of the Philippine Defense and Armed Forces attaché in many countries — even as it actually surrenders Philippine sovereignty to the US and China. 

The waste of people’s money that is the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) even goes to various countries to red-tag progressive migrant organizations and profiling community leaders and advocates.

Needless to say, this national budget does not signify a turnaround from the policies that cause widespread unemployment and poverty in the country, the material conditions of why people are forced to leave their families behind in order to survive amidst the increasing cost of fuel, rice and basic commodities as well as house rent, school materials and enrollment fees, among others.###