If members of the Social Security System (SSS) opposed the use of their P12.5 billion fund for the P330-billion economic stimulus package of the Arroyo administration, Filipino migrants too are against the use of P250-million Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) funds for the same purpose.
If members of the Social Security System (SSS) opposed the use of their P12.5 billion ($263,180,057 at the current exchange rate of $1=P47.496) fund for the P330-billion ($6,316,321,374) economic stimulus package of the Arroyo administration, Filipino migrants too are against the use of P250-million ($5,263,601) Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) funds for the same purpose.
To express their protest, members of Migrante International staged a picket in front of OWWA building, Feb. 5.
Gary Martinez, Migrante chairperson, said, “We smell something fishy with this stimulus package. And as usual, they are targeting the funds of OWWA, which belongs to us OFWs.”
Martinez pointed out that the allocation from the stimulus fund would only create double budgeting for programs, which already exist.
Members of Migrante International held a picket in front of the office of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). (Photo by Angie de Lara)
Arroyo signed Administrative Order 248 last December 4 instructing OWWA to contribute P250 million ($5,263,601) to the stimulus package. The said amount was supposed to finance programs of OWWA, which have been part of the agency’s annual budget since 1986.
“This program is not new. The president is deceiving OFWs when she presented this so- called package. It’s the duty of the OWWA to implement these programs in the first place,” he said.
He added that ‘Malacañang could now easily pocket the P250 million while OWWA will just continue to utilize the original allotted budget for the said program.’
Martinez recalled that during the 2004 presidential elections, Arroyo transferred P540-million ($11,369,378) from OWWA funds to PhilHealth. PhilHealth insurance cards were distributed for free during Arroyo’s campaign sorties.
“Arroyo had already raided the OFW fund during her campaign in the last 2004 elections, and she will probably do it again for the coming 2010 election!” Martinez said.
Martinez maintained that the economic stimulus fund would be another source of corruption to finance the alleged plan of Arroyo to perpetuate itself in power beyond 2010. “How can we trust a corrupt-ridden administration which has installed itself into power through electoral fraud?” Martinez asked.
He said the P330 billion ($6,316,321,374) is more than enough to railroad charter change or to finance electoral fraud.
“Enough is enough! We will not let the hard earned contributions of innocent OFWs to be utilized again to finance the diabolical plans of the Arroyo administration,” said Martinez.
The group asserted that OWWA funds should instead be utilized to help retrenched overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Laid off OFWs from Taiwan joined the picket at the OWWA office to demand help from the government.
In an interview with Bulatlat, Alma Ang, one of the 87 OFWs retrenched from J3 International Holdings Co. in Taiwan said that the P10,000 ($210) assistance promised to them by the OWWA turned out to be loans. Worse, it would be given in kind, she said.
Ang said they will be granted a loan if the government would approve their proposed livelihood program. Most of them did not accept the offer.
Ang said that what they need is immediate assistance to help them with their current financial difficulties and not an additional burden such as loans.
The OFWs from Taiwan went back to OWWA to follow up the reimbursement of their tickets as promised to them by the government agency during their dialogue last week.
Jessa Castillo, another OFW from Taiwan, said the dialogue with OWWA officials lasted for more than three hours. Castillo said OWWA Chief Carmelita Dimzon told them that their case will be a priority of OWWA.
Dimzon told OFWs that they will be provided with an additional loan of P50,000 ($1,052) if their livelihood program would be successful.
Gina Gaborni, secretary general of Migrante International, said the same promises were given by OWWA to the first batch of retrenched OFWs from Taiwan. Until now, they remain as promises. (Bulatlat.com)