‘Wala na pambayad’: Cash-strapped OWWA says it can stretch budget no further than May

Published April 21, 2021, 7:54 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) has yet to receive the additional budget that it requested from the national government over a month ago in connection with its operations amid the pandemic.

Despite this, OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac insisted Wednesday, April 21 that the agency was still “OK” and that it could survive on its current budget until the end of May.

“We are still in talks, in coordinative efforts with the DBM (Department of Budget and Management),” Cacdac said in a news forum organized by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

“Mayroon namang mga progress sa pag-uusap. Syempre DBM wants to ascertain kung magkano yung costing, kung magkano na yung nagastos, kung magkano yung estimata natin until the end of the year.Yang mga bagay na yan ay technical matters, ongoing ang discussions (But the talks are progressing. Of course the DBM wants to ascertain how much is the costing, how much we’ve spent, and how much is our estimated budget until the end of the year. Those are technical matters, discussions are ongoing),” he said.

“Second to fourth week of May, yun yung medyo red alert na talaga. Now, it’s April 21st so OK pa naman tayo sa ngayon (By second to fourth week of May, that would probably be red alert for us. Now, it’s April 21st so we’re still OK),” reckoned Cacdac.

OWWA has been in charge with the accommodation and transportation of returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) eversince the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) first emerged last year.

Specifically, they tap hotels and other accommodation establishments to temporarily house OFWs under quarantine. After this, transportation services are hired to send the displaced migrant workers home to their provinces.

It was back in March 10 when Cacdac first bared that the agency was asking DBM for a supplemental budget worth P9.8 billion. This was because its 2021 budget of P6.2 billion was fast depleting.

Asked what will happen if they don’t get more money, Cacdac bluntly said: “Wala tayong ipambabayad sa transport and hotel accommodations ng OFWs, maaantala yung payments natin (We won’t be able to pay for the transport and hotel accommodations of OFWs, our payments will get delayed).”

“I’m optimistic, I still know na hindi darating sa punto na ‘yun (I still know it won’t reach that point). The national government will find a way,” he added.

He said that DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III and DBM Secretary Wendel Avisado would discuss the matter in a meeting this week.

One thing going in favor of OWWA is that there are way less OFW-returnees staying at hotels quarantine facilities now (around 6,000) compared to March (10,000).

Accommodation costs for one OFW per day is more or less P3,000, Cacdac said. OWWA has spent between P11 billion and P12 billion for the accommodation and transportation of OFW since 2020.