By Hannah L. Torregoza
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) will go bankrupt by the end of 2021 if the COVID-19 pandemic continues in the next few months.
OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac admitted this during the hybrid hearing of the Senate Committee on Labor and Employment on Wednesday, saying the agency’s budget could go down to less than P1-billion by 2021 if the pandemic persists considering the huge costs involved in helping overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) being displaced due to the pandemic.
“If the current situation keeps up, we are spending for hotels, spending for food, for transport, that doesn’t even include the financial assistance which we will embark on later,we will be down to around P10-billion sir, at the end of the year,” said Cacdac, in response to Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon’s query on the status of OWWA’s fund.
“By the end of next year, sir, if this trend keeps up, by the end of 2021, we will be down to less than P1-billion, and that does not even (include), assuming sir, our reintegration programs will be in full swing,” he said.
Cacdac also explained before Sen. Joel Villanueva’s committee that prior to the COVID-19 crisis, OWWA has been spending around P800-million for its OFW reintegration program where approximately 35,000 OFWs sought assistance.
“But on a COVID year, sir, we are looking at, maliit na po sir ang 100 to 200 thousand OFWs who will seek the reintegration assistance,” he said.
When asked by Drilon to respond whether OWWA will go bankrupt, Cacdac, replied: “yes po sir, assuming all the factors currently present continue, tiny income, more OFWs coming home, yes po.”
According to Cacdac, OWWA is also looking at a worst case scenario as suggested by House members, saying the number of OFWs returning home could go up to 200,000 to 300,000.
“Then we will be looking at a further hit on the fund,” he said during the hearing, where he also said OWWA’s current cash asset is now only at P18.879-billion.
Asked what possible solution they have to sustain OWWA’s budget, the administrator said they are eyeing a P5-billion supplemental fund to sustain their programs for OFWs affected by the pandemic.
“Last June 1st, we delivered a letter to (Labor) Secretary (Silvestre) Bello, to the Senate President (Vicente Sotto III) asking for a supplemental fund of around P5-billion in the area especially of hotel, food, and transport so that we can be sustained sir along these lines, and we can devote more programs for reintegration and financial assistance for our OFWs. And of course, preserving the (OWWA) fund at the same time,” Cacdac said.