Loren vows to probe OWWA fund

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 15 2009 06:50 PM | Updated as of Aug 16 2009 08:29 AM

MANILA -- A female lawmaker on Saturday promised that she would hold a meeting with migrant workers and groups and concerned government agencies to shed light on the estimated US$11 billion overseas workers fund.

“Hindi ko po hihintayin ang aking unang daang araw na maging pangulo. Ngayon po ay Sabado sa Lunes po maari ko kayong imbitahan at ang OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) administrator at ang board. Ako po ay magpapa-meeting sa aking tanggapan,” said Sen. Loren Legarda.

Legarda responded to the question raised by Jun Aguilar of the Partido ng Pandaigdigang Pilipino during the Usapan OFW: A Leader’s Forum organized by ABS-CBN’s DzMM Teleradyo in partnership with the Blas F. Ople Policy Center.

Each OFW contributes US$25 per contract to the OWWA fund before they could leave for work abroad. Aguilar said that the total amount collected from departing OFWs is estimated at P11.4 billion.

“Highly irregular ang composition ng OWWA board. Kami po ang nag contribute niyan, US25 dollars of our contribution and yet we have no control, no right, on how this is going to be spent,” Aguilar pointed out.

Under the OWWA Omnibus Policies, one of the responsibilities of the OWWA Board of Trustees is to “ensure the efficiency of collection and the viability and sustainability of the fund through sound and judicious investment and fund management policies”.

Legarda said that she will file a Senate resolution to look into the matter.

Legarda told the forum’s audience that she summoned OWWA way back in 1998 to inquire about where and how the OWWA fund is spent.

“Tama ang inyong pananaw at iyan ay bibigyan natin ng kalutasan hindi sa unang 100 araw sa 2010 ngunit sa linggong ito,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ellene Sana of the Center for Migrant Advocacy asked Sen. Francis Escudero what his administration would do to ensure that OFWs rights and protection are upheld.

Sana said OFWs are scattered in 193 countries and destinations. About half a million of OFWs are deployed to the Middle East every year.

“Marami sa mga bansa doon hindi din nagra-ratify ng accepted standard of protection for human rights,” Sana pointed out.

Escudero for his part said that the next government should be at the forefront of forging bilateral or multilateral agreements regarding migrant workers rights.

“Pangatlo tayo sa pinakamalaki sa mundo na nagpapadala ng manggawa sa ibang bansa at pinakamalaki sa Southeast Asia. Dapat lang na nangunguna ang boses ng ating pamahalaan at lider sa pagsulong ng isang bilateral o multilateral na mga kasunduan na mangagalaga sa karapatan ng ating mga kababayan sa ibang bansa,” Escudero said.

Escudero also saw the need to re-orient the DFA and the country’s other foreign policies to ensure the rights of OFWs.

“Ang daming bansa na may military attache tayo wala namang ginagawa. Mayroong mga trade attache na wala din namang ginagawa dahil wala namang kalakalan ang bansa natin doon. Dapat tiyakin sa mga bansang may matatagpuan Pilipinong nagtatarabaho mayroon tayong sapat na empleyadong tutulong at tutugon sa kanilang pangangailangan,” he said.