By Jefferson Antiporda | The Manila Times
A lawmaker on Tuesday blamed the strict policies of the Commission on Audit (COA) as among the reasons why the government, particularly the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), is delayed in providing assistance to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., a member of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development, noted that there is a need for the Audit department to liberalize its rules in order to somehow speed up the release of funds from the OWWA to provide assistance to Filipino workers abroad in need of government help for various reasons.
“OWWA has huge trust fund. But this remains largely untapped because of the rules and regulations of the COA on the use of this fund,” Marcos said, but did not state that specific provision he was referring.
A mandatory $25 membership fee is being collected by the government on every departing Filipino workers, which goes to the trust fund managed by OWWA.
The overseas Filipino workers trust fund has about P13 billion but OWWA is having a hard time providing assistance to distress Filipino workers abroad facing different issues because of strict policies of the state auditor.
The department’s rules, according to Marcos, do not address the needs of distressed Filipino workers overseas, which is the reason why the OWWA trust fund was established in the first place.
For this reason, Marcos said that he is willing to introduce the proper legislation to remedy the situation.
“That is why there is a need to relax the rules and regulations of COA so that these funds can be used to help our workers abroad,” Marcos said.
There are about nine million Filipino workers now spread in 210 countries and territories some of them are facing either immigration related problems or have been charged criminally.
In Middle East alone, about 2,000 Filipino workers are in jail or facing various charges.
The senator pointed out that while the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is trying its best to help Filipino workers abroad that are in trouble, its efforts are hindered by insufficient funds.
“The DFA is willing and ready to help but they don’t have enough funds for example to hire lawyers to defend OFWs who have pending cases in court,” Marcos said.
He stressed that the Audit department should now revisit its policy and rules to make them responsive to the requirements of Filipino workers facing problems abroad by removing restrictions in using OWWA funds.