BINAY URGES REPATRIATION FUND FOR OFWS, WARNS OF BREWING HUMANITARIAN CRISIS ABROAD

PRESS RELEASE
19 SEPTEMBER 2009
REF: JOEY SALGADO

Makati Mayor and United Opposition (UNO) president Jejomar C. Binay today said the Arroyo administration should immediately establish a national fund for the repatriation of distressed Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWS) and to provide them with legal, financial and other assistance.

Binay said he was alarmed by the increasing number of OFWs reported stranded abroad and unable to go home. Unless the administration responds immediately, he said it may face a humanitarian crisis involving thousands of stranded OFWs.

“Unless the Arroyo administration acts immediately, the national government may face a humanitarian crisis involving thousands of undocumented OFWs stranded abroad and unable to go home because of the government’s failure to provide them with assistance,” he said.

“The biggest indignity is that these OFWs who are hailed as modern heroes have been forced to beg for food, and live in squalid conditions. They rely on the kindness of fellow Filipinos,” he said.

The opposition leader said cases of distressed OFWs have been increasing at an alarming rate, but the government has refused to tap the emergency repatriation fund being managed by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWA).

OWWA justified this by saying that a provision of Republic Act No. 8042 or the Magna Carta for Overseas Filipinos, limits the use of the P100 million fund to cases of war, epidemic, and natural or man-made disasters or calamities.

Binay said despite rising OFW remittances, the Arroyo administration has failed to acknowledge the contribution of overseas Filipinos to the economy by putting in place resources to assist them in their time of need.

He said he found it troubling that government agencies have reportedly failed to provide food and other assistance to some 300 OFWs who have been stranded in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and forced to live under a bridge. The authorities only provided help when the plight of the OFWS were reported in media.

“The economy has been largely sustained by the remittances of the 10 million overseas Filipino workers and yet the administration only pays lip service to their contribution,” he said.

“It’s about time that the administration gives our OFWs the treatment they deserve by setting up a fund for their repatriation, and to provide them with legal, financial, medical and other assistance in their time of need,” he said.

Binay said he finds it ironic that the administration is heavily dependent on the remittances of Filipinos who were forced to work abroad because of Mrs. Arroyo’s failure to provide them decent jobs in the Philippines .

“These are the same Filipinos who are vulnerable to exploitation and abuses because the administration has failed to match its aggressive policy of deploying OFWs with aggressive welfare protection” he said.

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