President Duterte has pulled through again for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as far as Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III is concerned.
This, after the Chief Executive approved DOLE’s request for a supplemental budget for the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to the tune of P5.2 billion.
“I just received a call a few minutes ago, inapprove na ng ating Pangulo yung recommendation ni [Department of Budget and Management] Secretary [Wendel] Avisado for P5.2 billion for the repatriation expense of our OFWs (the President has approved the recommendation of Secretary Avisado for the P5.2 billion for the repatriation expense of our OFWs),” he said during a virtual press briefing Wednesday, May 26.
“That will prove to you once and for all gaano ka-bias ang ating Pangulo pagdating sa ating mga OFW. Mahal na mahal ng ating Pangulo yung mga OFW (The President is very biased for our OFWs. The President loves our OFWs very much),” Bello said.
OWWA, a subordinate agency of DOLE, has been shouldering the food, transportation, and accommodation of returning OFWs eversince the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) began last year.
“Kase medyo naiipit narin tayo, yung ibang hotels dyan ayaw na rin tumanggap [ng OFWs for quarantine] dahil nabibinbin ang bayad (We have been experiencing difficulties, some hotels have refused to accept OFWs for quarantine because of delayed payments),” Bello admitted.
But with the development on the supplemental budget, the labor chief expects the situation will improve.
OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac earlier said that the agency’s 2021 budget of P6.2 billion would be completely used up by May.
OWWA had originally requested a much bigger supplemental budget of P9.8 billion from the DBM. Bello acknowledged this and didn’t see any problem, given Duterte’s soft spot for OFWs.
“[If] we would need additional money, then we will again request,” he said.
Over 556,000 OFWs have been repatriated amid the pandemic.