House committee needs to look into P5-B request of OWWA to replenish depleting trust fund — Rep. Daza

Published June 27, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Charissa Luci-Atienza

Northern Samar 1st district Rep. Paul Daza cited the need for the House Committee on Appropriations to look into the P5-billion funding request made by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to replenish its depleting trust fund for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Northern Samar 1st district Rep. Paul Daza  (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)
Northern Samar 1st district Rep. Paul Daza

He made the call on Saturday, June 27, as OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac had disclosed in a Senate hearing that the P18.8 billion OWWA fund “could be down to P10 billion or P11 billion by the end of the year.”

The OWWA fund is sourced from the contributions of the OFWs.

“I think it (depleting OWWA fund) should be discussed by Appropriations Committee,” Daza, vice chairperson of the influential Appropriations panel, said in a text message.

The chairman of the House panel is ACT CIS partylist Rep. Eric Yap, who has been publicly criticized for filing House Bill No. 7031, which seeks to rename Ninoy Aquino International Airport as the Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas (PPP).

Daza urged OWWA to justify its additional P5 billion funding request by presenting to Congress its itemized statement of expenses and estimated expenditures for next year.

“I would like to see the P8 billion itemized statement of expenses and projected 2021 expenses. If review of the expenses this year is reasonable and justifiable and next year’s projected expenses are justifiable, I would support funding for P5 billion subject to quarterly reporting to the House of Representatives,” the House leader said.

He explained that the special purpose funds could be tapped to address the OWWA’s funding concerns.

“There are many sources like the special purpose funds… The DBM can include it now in the National Expenditure Program 2021, which will be submitted to Congress sometime August. If it’s not there, the Committee on Appropriations can make adjustments,” Daza said when asked about the funding sources for the OWWA’s P5-billion funding request.

Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said OWWA’s funding request deserves Congress’ support.

“I support that request. We should now make strong representations to collect the P17 to P18 billion revenue from POGOs (Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators) on their payment of 5-percent franchise tax in 2019,” he said.

Cacdac had told the senators on Wednesday that he sought around P5 billion additional funding to be spent for the food, accommodation, and transportation for the returning OFWs.

It will also be used to finance OWWA’s reintegration programs and to grant financial assistance to OFWs, he said.

He said around P1.1 billion has been spent, P915 million of which came from the trust fund and was spent for the returning OFWs’ hotel accommodation, food and transportation.

The OWWA had extended food assistance to 70,000 overseas Filipinos and to another 70,000 seafarers stranded in the country due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Cacdac expressed concern that if the pandemic crisis continues, the OWWA fund “will be down to less than P1 billion by end of 2021.”