Villanueva pushes doubling of P1-B OFW aid fund for 2022

Published August 26, 2021, 11:35 AM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Joel Villanueva said the funds intended for helping distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) should be increased in the 2022 proposed national budget.

Senator Joel Villanueva honors women overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in observation of National Women’s Day during the hearing of the Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development on March 8, 2021. (Senate PRIB)

Villanueva, chairman of the Senate labor committee, noted that under the National Expenditure Program (NEP) recently submitted by the executive department, the Assistance to Nationals (ATN) Fund of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for next year was proposed at P1 billion.

The amount remained unchanged from the amount allocated this year, said the senator, who is also one of the vice chairpersons of the Senate finance comittee handling the annual budget.

The same is true for the Legal Assistance Fund (LAF), which stood at P200 million, he added.

“We should at least increase the funds for ATN and LAF to P2 billion. The 2022 national budget says the ATN will only be enough to assist 145,000 overseas Filipinos. Parang P6,896 kada distressed overseas Filipino po iyan (It’s like giving each of them only P6,896),” Villanueva said in a statement.

“Napakaliit naman po na halaga ito kumpara sa laki ng kanilang ambag sa ekonomiya ng bansa (It’s a meager amount compared to their substantial contribution to the country’s economy),” he lamented.

In stressing his point, the senator cited a 2020 remittance data showing that OFWs sent a total of $33.19 billion, or P1.646 trillion.

“Ang computation po nito ay mahigit P4.5 bilyon kada araw ang remittance nila. At kung ikukumpara sa P1 bilyon na budget ng ATN para sa isang taon, katumbas lang po ito ng ilang oras na remittance ng ating mga overseas Filipinos (The computation is that they remitted over P4.5 billion every day of year. And if we compare that to the P1-billion ATN budget for one year, it will just equite to their remittances within a few hours),” Villanueva estimated.

He said the P11.2-billion proposed budget for OFW assistance under the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA), would also not suffice, since the fund covers several other programs such livelihood services, reskilling and scholarships for their dependents.

OFWs, he said, “deserve better from our government.”

“Lalo na ngayong pandemya na marami sa ating mga kababayan lalo na yaong mga nasa ibang bansa ang humaharap sa maraming hamon. Walang pamilya o tulong na maasahan kundi ang gobyerno (Especially now that many of our countrymen, and those abroad, are facing challenges due to the pandemic),” Villanueva pointed out.