The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) owed 20 hotels operating in Manila, Tagaytay, and Cebu a hundred million pesos worth of unpaid debts, thus adding to the financial problems of these establishments.
According to Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA) President Christine Ann U. Ibarreta, the agency’s burgeoning debts have ballooned to some P241 million as of November 4, even as several hotels continue to operate as temporary quarantine facilities for returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). These hotels cannot any more pay for the salaries of their personnel, she added.
Ibaretta, however, refused to name all the hotels involved and give the breakdown of the amount due to them. But as the director of Sales and Marketing at Golden Phoenix Hotel in Manila, she said the amount payable by OWWA to the establishment is around P38.5 million.
She said the HSMA is now having an online dialogue with OWWA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac about the matter. The association’s finance team is also conducting a daily follow-up with the agency by physically going to OWWA head office in Pasay CIty to check if the payment vouchers and checks are ready.
“Until now, some hotels hindi pa rin nagpasweldo. I can’t blame them. Wala nang pera pinangbili ng supplies for OWWA OFWs,” Ibaretta told the Manila Bulletin.
But she clarified that the hotels will still continue to provide what the OFWs need like food, accommodation, among others.
“As hospitality professionals, we ensure that our guests always come first. We are here to serve and delight them as far as our limited budget can do,” she stressed.
On Wednesday, Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III ordered OWWA to resolve the issue within seven days. He said the delays in the payment of the hotels arose from the agency’s rigorous verification process of the charges from hotels to make sure there will be no overpayment.
Asked if the tourism department has been assisting the HSMA on the issue, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said: “Secretary Bebot has always prioritized the needs and concerns of the hotel industry so I am confident that this will be resolved immediately.”
Ibaretta on Thursday welcomed Bello’s promise, citing that they will wait for the release of checks for them to function properly and serve the OFWs better.