Notwithstanding an additional P7.75 billion to its 2022 budget, the Department of the Labor and Employment may still need more funds to address programs for local and overseas Filipino workers suffering the brunt of the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Probinsyano Ako Partylist Rep. Jose “Bonito” C. Singson Jr. aired this view on Monday, Sept. 13 as he called for additional allocation for DOLE which is one of the frontline agencies tasked to help government fight off the effectts of the pandemic.
Singson, chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, said he considers the proposed adjustment of DOLE budget for 2021 “moderate” if compared to the exigencies of the labor situation under the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.
“DOLE is among the frontline government agencies tasked to address the COVID-19 situation, it is imperative for us to give it our all-out support in terms of budgetary requirements for its urgent programs,” he stated.
The partylist solon’s call for additional allocation to the already increased budget proposal for DOLE was backed by members of the Committee on Appropriations during the budget briefing on Thursday.
Singson said the proposed hike in budgetary allocation is well justified as the adjustments would address the urgent needs of local and overseas workers who have absorbed economic devastation triggered by the pandemic.
The House official noted that DOLE received an Unqualified Audit Opinion which is the highest audit rating that the Commission on Audit can give a government agency.
From the current allocation of P36.607 billion, the proposed DOLE budget under the 2022 National Expenditure Program is P44.365 billion, registering an increase of P7.758 billion or 21 percent.
Singson lauded the proposed 10.5 percent increase in the budget for the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced workers or TUPAD that is funded under the 2021 GAA with P19.036 billion.
The 2022 NEP reflects an additional P2 billion for the program or a total P21.036 billion for the year.
Also sought to be adjusted is the P6.82 billion budget for the Emergency Repatriation Fund relative to Project CARE UWIAN na Program due to the COVID 19 pandemic and salaries for job orders in central and regional offices and local hires in overseas posts.
The proposed ERF budget is P4.84 billion.
The highest upward adjustment in allocation went to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) which will get P12.79 billion for 2022 from its current P7.59 billion allocation. The computed increase is P5.19 billion or 68.4 %.
Singson also noted that next to OWWA is the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration which will have an additional P163.77 million to its 2021 budget of P507.76 million. The proposed budget for 2022 is P671.54 million.
The OWWA Repatriation Program has benefitted 679,845 overseas Filipino workers who were assisted in going back to the Philippines.
A total 10,018 OFWs infected with COVID 19 were granted assistance by OWWA while 79,300 OFW dependents received educational support.
“DOLE needs strong budgetary support in order to reach out to more Filipinos, here and abroad, as they face this unprecedented COVID-19 crisis,” said Singson