1 August 2011
As President Benigno Simeon Aquino III announced during his 2nd State of the Nation Address (SONA) that his administration will immediately be submitting its proposed national budget for Fiscal Year 2012, a Filipino migrants rights group in the Middle East today said it will lobby hard for an increase budget allocations for OFWs and their dependents.
Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said the Aquino govt. must have learned and correct its previous year budget planning wherein it substantially slashed funds allocated for OFWs such as the assistance to the national and legal assistance funds, both are included in the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) budget.
Monterona cited for instance the DFA approved budget for fiscal year 2011. He noted the approved DFA’s budget for this year is about P11-B, which is a far cry from the department’s original proposal of P19-B.
“What is disgusting is that the allocations for DFA’s assistance to the nationals and legal assistance funds have been substantially slashed,” Monterona added.
Monterona claimed the already extremely inadequate DFA allocations (from P200 million to P109.3 million) for programs on assistance to nationals that include repatriation and legal assistance programs for the estimated 10 million overseas Filipinos, is in violation of the Amended Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act (Republic Act 10022).
The amended Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act (R.A.10022) require a P100-M legal assistance fund, excluding the assistance to the nationals’ fund, to be allocated from various sources, as follows:
"Fifty million pesos (50,000,000.00) from the Contingency Fund of the President;
"Thirty million pesos (30,000,000.00) from the Contingency Fund of the President Social Fund;
"Twenty million pesos (20,000,000.00) from the Welfare Fund for Overseas Workers established under Letter of Instructions No. 537 as amended by Presidential Decree Nos. 1694 and 1809.
“This fiscal year (2011) the DFA’s approved allocation for legal assistance was reduced to P27-M from P50-M of last year during Arroyo administration,” Monterona noted.
Monterona added due to OFWs and their organizations persistent campaigns and protest actions, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) was forced to submit an “erratum” to Congress to include allocations from the Department of Foreign Affairs (P50M, increasing the initial P27M), OWWA welfare fund (P20M) and Presidential Contingency Fund (P22.6M), to come up with a total of P129.9M for the 2011 LAF.
Monterona said instead of cutting the budget for OFWs and their dependents, the Aquino administration must seriously consider having contingency funds intended for ‘unforeseen’ events such as the on-going political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa and the tsunami and earthquake in Japan and New Zealand for emergency evacuation and repatriation of affected OFWs and their families.
Monterona also suggested that the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) reintegration and job placements program must be improved and made easily accessible and prioritize those who will be displaced due to ‘Saudization’ and other similar labor market constraints and other ‘unforeseen’ events.
“The bottom line is the Aquino govt. must come up a sound and feasible budget allocation wherein OFWs-concerned government agencies such as the Foreign Affairs and Labor departments should not cite no adequate funds as an excuse and it could respond to the needs and concerns of OFWs whose billion dollars remittances are helping the economy afloat,” Monterona added.
Monterona said Migrante chapters in the Middle-East will be lobbying hard not only to the Aquino administration but as well as to members of the Congress, both in the Senate and House Representatives, to approve a sound and adequate budget allocations for OFWs and their dependents during budget deliberations by sending letters, petition and other forms of lobbying. # # #
John Leonard Monterona
Migrante-ME regional coordinator