Filipino Expatriate Benefit Fund in Centre of Storm

DUBAI — The ‘troubleshooting’team from Manila lashed out at the locally-based organisation of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), which is critical of the Philippine government’s programme to assist laid-off workers.

By Lily B. Libo-on

Published: Thu 19 Feb 2009, 1:24 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:30 AM

Labour Attaché Jeffrey D. Cortazar, head of the DOLE Help Desk Mission in Buraimi, called on Emigrante Middle East, the largest alliance of OFWs in the region, to check the reports of the Commission on Audit for misappropriations instead of launching a signature campaign among the Filipino workers. “Do your homework. Do some pencil pushing instead of maligning government efforts without any basis at all,” he said.

He added that Emigrante is critical of everything the government is doing, but refuses to acknowledge the fact that the OFW funds has doubled within a year underLabour Secretary Mariano Roque from Php5 billion (Dh500 million) to Php10 billion (Dh1 billion).

“I am sure Emigrante knows that. Only it chooses to be silent about what is positive and good,” he said.

Earlier, John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional coordinator, released a Lobby Letter for the Philippine legislators and leaders of churches and other groups, and initiated a signature campaign to protect the Php1 billion Expatriate Livelihood Fund alleging it was appropriated without consulting the overseas Filipino workers.

Disbursement of Funds

In reaction to Emigrante’s ongoing online “Protect and Secure the Php1billion OFW Funds”, Bai Umera Dianalan Lucman, member of the Board of Trustees of OWWA, who attended the team’s exit Press conference at POLO, stressed that disbursement of OWWA funds can only be done if the 12-man Board of Trustees, to which she is a member, approves it.

“The board is a composite team of the officials from the Department of Budget and Management, Department of Foreign Affairs, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and representatives from the land-based and sea-based overseas Filipino workers.”

She said that Php200 million (Dh20 million) was packaged for distressed workers in September 2008.

“This came in the form of livelihood programmes, and to avail of this fund, the applicant should present a certificate that they were displaced.”

The remaining Php800 million (Dh80 million) will be released through the Development Bank of the Philippines – Land Bank of the Philippines for those who have been retrenched.

Labour Attaché Cortazsar said the packaged programme for the retrenched workers is in three major phases, the second and third of which were repackaged OWWA programmes. “A cut-off date was October 15, 2008. Only those OFWs retrenched after October 15 can avail of the programmes, which allocated Php10,000 (Dh1,000) for the training and start-up capital of every retrenched Filipino worker.”

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