Group wants P1-B loan fund for OFWs probed

A MIGRANT rights group in the Middle East yesterday urged the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to account its P1-billion loan assistance fund for returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

The Migrante said the government should demonstrate transparency and public accountability in regards to the funds of OFWs held in trust to the government through OWWA, an agency adjunct to the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE).

The OWWA trust fund is a collection of US$25 compulsory membership fee from every departing OFWs held in trust to the government. It is believed to have reached more than P13-B.

Early December last year, President Benigno Aquino III ordered OWWA to allocate a P1-billion  “reintegration fund” to let returning OFWs who would stay for good in the country to borrow an amount to finance the start up of their own businesses.

“It is a public knowledge that there were alleged misuses and misallocations of the OFWs trust funds by past administrations especially during the Arroyo regime; OFWs and their organizations must be vigilant now on how their own trust funds will be spent by the government to the benefits of stakeholders,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.

Monterona explained the creation of OWWA emanates from a constitutional mandate for the state to affirm labor, local and overseas, as a primary social economic force, and to guarantee the protection of the rights of overseas workers and the promotion of their interests and general well-being.

“Despite this constitutional mandate, OWWA was created as a self-sustaining agency where all its operational costs have been taken from OFWs contribution amounting to US$25 each OFW and without a single allocation coming from the national government” Monterona added.  D’Jay Lazaro

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