OWWA chief reaction to promise of P5.2-B supplemental budget: 'Makakahinga na tayo'

Published May 17, 2021, 5:05 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) can now heave a sigh of relief as far as its dwindling funds are concerned.

OWWA Chief Hans Leo Cacdac and DOLE Director Rolly Francia tackle OFW-related issues during a virtual press briefing Monday, May 17, 2021. (Screengrab from Facebook live)

OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac thanked on Monday, May 17 President Duterte and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Wendel Avisado after the agency finally received a commitment for a supplemental budget worth P5.2 billion.

“Makakahinga na tayo dahil mayroon nang commitment ang national government to provide supplemental budget (We can now breathe easily because the national government has committed to provide us with a supplemental budget),” Cacdac said during a virtual press briefing organized by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

OWWA, a subordinate agency of DOLE, has been shouldering the food, transportation, and accommodation of returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) eversince the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) began last year.

“Malaking pasasalamat natin kay Secretary Wendell and of course sa ating mahal na Pangulo for providing the necessary support (Big thanks go to Secretary Wendell and of course to our beloved President),” Cacdac said.

OWWA had been tending to the repatriated OFWs using its 2021 budget worth P6.2 billion. Last April 21, Cacdac said that they could stretch their budget no further than May this year.

After that, the agency wouldn’t have any money left to pay for the OFWs’ hotel accommodations for purposes of quarantine.

Despite the money promise, OWWA is not out of the woods yet. The P5.2 billion is significantly less than the P9.8 billion that the labor agency had originally asked for to cover the costs until the end of the year.

Add to this the huge jump in the number of OFWs currently staying at quarantine hotels. Cacdac said there are now 9,300 bileted OFWs from just 6,500 three weeks ago.

Playing a factor in this is the increase that the national pandemic task force enforced on the quarantine days of the returning Filipinos, which is now eight to nine days from the previous seven to eight days.

“The P5.2 billion is good until the early part of the fourth quarter. So we’re good in that sense,” Cacdac said, trying to remain positive.

“There will be more time to further coordinate with the DBM and further project our costs,” he noted.

He said that OWWA is now working with the DBM to get the much-needed supplemental budget by “hopefully this week”.

“That’s what we’re aiming for but of course we will also be patient enough and rely on our proper coordination with our colleagues from the DBM,” he further said.