MANILA, Philippines - One of President Aquino's rivals in the 2010 presidential elections criticized the government's response to the crisis in Libya affecting thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), pinning the blame on scarce funds.
Sen. Manny Villar said the administration slashed the allocation of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for assisting Filipinos abroad from P156 million to P78 million in the 2011 budget.
"Tayo ay medyo may kabagalan sapagkat walang pera," he told reporters on Tuesday.
Villar said the government's response would not be as slow as it is today if only it had enough funds.
He also said the government must do more than just send its people to the strife-torn country.
Last Friday, DFA Acting Secretary Albert del Rosario flew to Tunisia to personally oversee the evacuation of OFWs from Libya.
"Hindi naman kailangan ng ating mga kababayan doon ang ating pagdalaw. Ang kailangan nila ay bus at masasakyan pauwi. Ang kailangan nila dito ay additional funds. Pondo para makakuha ng mas maraming bus, mas maraming sasakyan, tiket sa eroplano, barko para sila ay makalabas nang higit na mabilis," Villar said.
"Subalit maliwanag na hindi tayo handa, kaya ngayon ay nangangapa tayo at namomroblema nang malaki ang ating mga kababayan doon," he added.
Villar made the statements after meeting around 18 repatriated OFWs from Saudi Arabia who came to the Senate to personally thank him for his assistance.
The OFWs were repatriated by the DFA last month and received transportation assistance from Villar's Sagip OFW program. They were among OFWs who lived in makeshift tents under the Khandara Bridge as they awaited deportation to the Philippines.
Villar called on private groups to assist distressed OFWs, saying nothing can be done for now to increase the DFA's budget.