Bill to give financial assistance to OFWs

Lawmakers are urging Congress to enact a law granting financial
assistance to distressed Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

Reps. Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmi De Jesus (Party-list, Gabriela) filed
House Bill 5331 to alleviate the situation of distressed OFWs by
providing them financial assistance during their most difficult times.

“The laws are silent on the specific welfare services and benefits
aside from repatriation in cases of natural and man-made calamities in
host countries. Thus, in each and every case of collective involuntary
repatriation, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Board
decides on whether financial grant and what amount shall be given to
identified beneficiaries,” Ilagan said.

Citing a 2009 OWWA report, Ilagan said OWWA got P1.5 billion
collection as membership fees from 1,479,070 OFWs.

“The huge state exactions from OFWs in the form of compulsory
membership fee are not used mainly for the provision of services but
more for its operations and investment ventures,” Ilagan said.

Ilagan said a big number of OFWs has been displaced and repatriated
for various reasons including distressful situations such as abusive
employment, human trafficking and illegal recruitment.

Under the bill, a distressed OFW will get P50,000 within seven days
after filing of application. The bill defines distressed OFWs as those
who lost their jobs and were forced by circumstances to return to the
country.

“Distressed OFWs include but not exclusively mean those who have been
sexually abused, those who have run away from their employers, those
who have been repatriated from host countries hit by natural and
man-made calamities, including civil disorders, those who have sought
refuge at Welfare Centers and those who have been found stranded
anywhere in host countries where they intended to seek employment,
whether documented or non-documented,” De Jesus said.

Under the bill, the financial assistance for distressed OFWs as
provided for in the bill shall form part of the OWWA program package
for distressed OFWs and shall be charged against the funds of the
agency.

The measure also penalizes any employee found to have caused the delay
of the release of the financial assistance for distressed OFWs within
seven days after filing of the application, ranging from 90-day
suspension to dismissal from the service.

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