MANILA — An organization of migrants called on the Philippine government to ensure social protection and welfare services for overseas Filipino workers (OFW), Filipino migrants and their families by increasing funding for these programs in the proposed 2021 national budget.
In an online petition on change.org, Migrante International pointed out that in the proposal, only P8.6 billion from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) is allotted to fund programs that seek to assist and support OFWs and migrants in distress.
The group said that despite the negative effects of the coronavirus pandemic on Filipinos abroad, the proposed 2021 budget of P1.2 billion for the DFA’s Assistance to Nationals Program (ATN) and Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) is only the same as in the 2020 budget.
It also said that while the proposed budget for OWWA has significantly increased to P7.4 billion, the amount will still be inadequate to serve the thousands of OFWs who remain stranded overseas and awaiting repatriation due to the pandemic.
Migrante International said there are thousands of OFWs who lost their jobs who have yet to receive any financial assistance from the government.
Under the AKAP program, the financial assistance for displaced land-based and sea-based Filipino workers program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), only 280,000 OFWs were granted financial assistance out of the estimated 1 million OFWs who were displaced in the past seven months.
“The proposed budget does not take into account the increased support needed for the millions of Filipino migrants who have been displaced and severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and who are in need of financial and livelihood assistance, welfare support, repatriation assistance and comprehensive health services,” Migrante International said.
“[T]he proposed budget will potentially leave hundreds of Filipino migrants every year who are victims of labor exploitation, human trafficking, illegal recruitment, gender-based violence, and discrimination neglected for lack of adequate funds to support their cases,” the group added.
The group also asked the government to provide immediate financial assistance in the amount of P10,000 to all Filipino migrants, OFWs and their families affected by the pandemic by allotting an additional P7.2 billion to the DOLE AKAP Program.
Migrante International said additional funds are also needed for hiring more personnel, legal advocates, interpreters, and other critical resources to effectively improve services and social welfare and protection for vulnerable migrants.
The group also demanded that the government fully subsidize OWWA services and programs and stop the collection of OWWA membership dues from OFWs.
“To recover from the pandemic, the people, especially overseas and local workers, farmers and the poor need an expenditure program that heals and unites,” Migrante International said.