Returned OFWs demand benefits from OWWA

At least 300 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Madagascar who underwent emergency repatriation due to a malaria epidemic in the country today trooped to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) office to demand financial assistance from the agency.

At least 1,000 OFWs were subjected to mandatory evacuation from Madagascar because of the malaria outbreak since February.

The OFWs demanded that they be given the same P10,000 financial assistance from OWWA that were given to returned OFWs from Libya.

In a hearing of the Committee of Overseas Workers’ Affairs of the House of Representatives last month, OWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimzon agreed to bring to the attention of the OWWA Board the Madagascar workers’ demand for a 10,000 financial assistance. The Madagascar OFWs lobbied that, like the OFWs from Libya, they were sent back to the Philippine not of their own volition.

However, when the Madagascar OFWs first trooped to OWWA two weeks ago, Dimzon said that the Board refused their demand.

According to Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez, “We fully support the rightful demand of the Madagascar OFWs. They and all returned OFWs who were forced to evacuate or were sent home due to incidents out of their control such as war, epidemics, natural or man-made calamities, human or labor rights violations and the like should be entitled to financial assistance from the OWWA.”

He said, “Napakasaklap na parang nagmamakaawa ngayon ang ating mga OFW sa OWWA. OWWA funds are OFW funds and they have every right to it, especially during times of crisis. The OWWA and the Aquino government should have a concrete program for all OFWs repatriated due to crisis or emergency situations, it should not be selective on who it would give assistance to.”

Martinez said that the OWWA’s “reintegration policy” consisting of training and livelihood or loan programs do not necessarily answer the immediate needs of OFWs who underwent emergency repatriation. “Dapat ibahin sila dahil kadalasan sila ay bumalik sa Pilipinas nang hindi man lang nakuha ang kanilang mga sahod habang wala namang naghihintay na kabuhayan dito sa bansa.”

The migrant leader said that returned OFWs from Libya, Madagascar, the Middle East and Japan will also join Labor Day protests on May 1 to demand jobs at home with decent wages from the Aquino government. ###