Manila Representative Ma. Theresa Bonoan-David authored House Bill 6195 seeking to amend Republic Act (RA) 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995. The House measure provides that for every worker recruited or deployed overseas, the recruitment agency or its employer shall be required to pay $50 or around P2,100 as contribution to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) Emergency Repatriation Fund before leaving the country.
"The bill intends to provide the necessary measures for the government to carry out its responsibilities to assist distressed OFWs in cases of war, epidemic, disaster or calamities, natural or man-made, and other similar events, and promote their general welfare," Bonoan-David said.
RA 8042 has already created and established an Emergency Repatriation Fund under the administration, control and supervision of Owwa with an initial funding of P1 million.
"There are millions of OFWs all over the world which the Philippine government is mandated to protect and safeguard under RA 8042 but it seems incapable to efficiently help distressed OFWs due to financial constraints," Bonoan-David said.
Overseas Filipino workers (OFW) group Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) voiced out its strong opposition against the bill proposed by a Manila congresswoman that imposes an additional fee of $50 to sustain the government’s emergency repatriation funds.
“Rep. Bonoan-David’s proposal is ill-advised. She may be misinformed because the issue is not about lack of fund,” said John Leonard Monterona, M-ME regional coordinator.
Monterona said that OFW funds held in trust by OWWA is now about P13 billion. “And yet the OWWA does not have enough programs and welfare services for OFWs and their dependents,” he said.
Monterona also questioned whether the OWWA is using the Emergency Repatriation Fund properly. “The OWWA has not been transparent on the real status of the OFWs trust fund and where it is being spent,” he said.
He said David’s proposal is clearly anti-OFW.
“For one, it is just an added burden to the already overburdened OFWs. The proposal is also against the mandate of the Migrant Workers Act of 2010 or R.A. 10022,” he said.
Instead of imposing additional fees or charges on Filipino migrant workers, Bonoan-David should channel her “pork barrel” to OWWA’s Emergency Repatriation Fund, said Monterona said.
“Pro-OFW lawmakers should do the same,” Monterona said.
“We, through our Migrante International leaders in Manila might seek a dialog with Rep. Bonoan-David to hear our side and position. If she will insist, then we have no choice but to intensify our campaign against her proposal. We are not milking cows. We will campaign against her anti-OFW bill,” he said.
M-ME likewise underscored the OFW’s huge contribution to the government in terms of cash remittance, which for April alone reached $1.7 billion.
Filipinos applying for a work abroad are being buried in debts even before they flew out of the country for seeking a greener pasture or just because of the lack of job opportunities in the Philippines. Most of them are applying for a loan from lending companies to pay for their placement fees which could amount up to $1,700.
And now, a member of the congress filed a bill requiring our OFW's to pay an additional of $50. I know, it was specifically stipulated on that bill that the additional payment will not be shouldered by OFW themselves but will be paid by recruitment agencies or their employer.
How would she plan to enforce it? I'm 100% sure that that additional payment will be pass on to our OFW. Another burden for our already burdened "heroes".
According to POEA, there are 4,500 OFW leaving the country every day. And if we do the math, the government could collect $225,000 a day or $82,125,000 in a year.
I have to agree with the proposal of the Migrante for our congressmen to channel a portion [or at least 5%] of their Php 70 million pork barrel to OWWA’s Emergency Repatriation Fund. The government could easily get $23,800,000 additional funding from 286 congressmen.