The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the lead government agency tasked to promote the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families, will be getting for the first time government allocation for its operating requirements, thanks to the new OWWA law.
“Sa halos apat na dekada mula nang naitatag ang OWWA, ito ang unang pagkakataon na makatatanggap ito ng pondo mula sa gobyerno. Dahil dito, mas mapapalakas nito ang mga programa at proyekto na layong tiyakin ang kaligtasan at kapakanan ng ating mga OFW at kanilang mga pamilya,” said Senator Sonny Angara, author of Republic Act 10801 or the OWWA law of 2016.
Under the law, OWWA is declared as a national government agency and an attached agency of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and would be receiving government funding instead of relying solely from the contributions of its OFW members called the OWWA Fund.
For 2018, the OWWA has a total budget of P2.876 billion–P1.96 billion from the OWWA Fund and P916 million from the national budget.
The P916 million will cover the personnel services requirement of the entire agency, and the maintenance and other operating expenses for general administration and support. It also includes the P50-million allocation for the implementation of the emergency repatriation program.
Hence, the OWWA Fund would entirely go to programs and services for the welfare of member OFWs and their families such as insurance coverage, legal, placement and remittance assistance, social benefits, educational assistance for OFW dependents, repatriation and reintegration programs.
RA 10801 boosts the government’s capacity to assist OFWs who lost their jobs or those who decided to return by making reintegration one of the core programs of OWWA. This include employment and livelihood training, access to credit, and grant money to start their own business.
During DOLE’s budget hearing, presided by Angara, OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said the agency has increased the grant awarded to beneficiaries of their Balik Pilipinas, Balik Hanapbuhay Program from P10,000 to P20,000.
OWWA, together with Landbank, also provides P100,000 to P2 million loan with collateral requirement for those who want to establish businesses.
Cacdac said they are looking at creating a micro-lending program for a minimum amount of P50,000 to as much as P300,000 minus the collateral requirement.
“The OWWA is now more empowered to provide prompt and appropriate response to global emergencies or crisis situations affecting OFWs and their families,” said Angara, sponsor of the DOLE budget.
As of February this year, there are approximately 7 million OFWs who are members of OWWA.
Under the new OWWA law, the US$25 membership contribution is valid for two years regardless of contract duration, change of employer or principal, job site, or recruitment or manning agency to improve equity between land-based and sea-based members.
“Before the passage of the law, our Filipino seafarers–who generally have shorter employment contracts–were forced to pay more membership fees than the other members of OWWA because the collection was based on the renewal of their contract. Making the payment of membership contribution fixed for every two years, instead of contract-bound, would largely benefit our seafarers,” Angara said.