By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Parañaque City Rep. Eric Olivarez is proposing the creation of P1-billion Special Assistance Fund to help assist distressed Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) abroad.
He cited the need to strengthen the government’s support for OFWs who will find themselves in distress in the countries where they are based.
“OFWs do gamble their lives, freedom, and welfare in order to secure the future of their families when they cannot seek employment in our very own motherland. Therefore, it is the duty of the State to protect them and their rights, and ensure their safe repatriation when they encounter problems,” Olivarez said.
“There is a need to allot a Special Assistance Fund for them, to ensure that when faced by a difficult legal, medical or social circumstance that forces them to return to the Philippines, they will be adequately assisted and their repatriation will be properly facilitated,” he said.
Olivarez filed House Bill 8840 to provide assistance to both documented and undocumented migrant workers.
The Special Assistance Fund shall cover repatriation; medical expenses, hospitalization and purchase of medicine; migration fees for overstaying Filipinos; legal assistance; necessities of OFWs caught in emergencies, detained or experiencing other similar forms of distress, while awaiting repatriation; and any legitimate, related or incidental expenses or costs for rescue operations of distressed OFWs abroad.
The proposed Distressed OFW Special Assistance Act tasks the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to implement the proposed Act.
Under HB 8840, the fund needed to initially implement the provisions of the proposed Act shall be sourced from the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
The appropriation allotted to the Assistance to Nationals and Legal Assistance Fund of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and to the OWWA, shall serve as core fund for the program, it said.
“Thereafter, the yearly P1 billion appropriation shall be sourced from part of the earnings of the Bureau of Immigration , Duty-Free Philippines, DFA’s passport processing fees, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) and other relevant offices or agencies as may be identified and directed by the President of the Republic of the Philippines.