MANILA—With Middle East economies buckling under the weight of falling world prices of crude oil, Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) senatorial bet Sherwin Gatchalian called on President Benigno S. Aquino III on Friday to immediately sign the proposed Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Act to counteract the looming mass retrenchment of overseas Filipino workers in the said region.
“The immediate signing of the proposed law will ensure that the OWWA Fund will be used solely for the welfare of OFWs and their families. With the looming mass retrenchment of workers in the Middle East, there is no excuse for delay,” Gatchalian, the author of the House version of the bill, said.
The harmonized version of House Bill No. 4990 and Senate Bill No. 2995 seeks to limit the use of the OWWA Fund only for the welfare of member OFWs and their families.
Under the measure, OWWA shall be tasked to provide social and welfare programs, including reintegration and entrepreneurial development services.
It shall also be tasked to respond promptly to “global emergencies or crisis situations affecting OFWs and their families.”
It cannot be used “to respond, aid, supplement, or in any manner augment any required expenditure by other government agencies.”
According to OWWA, in-country reintegration includes job referrals, business counseling, community organizing and financial literacy seminar.
Under the proposed law, OWWA services may also be extended to non-members.
Gatchalian pointed out that reintegration is exactly the kind of service that jobless OFWs will need from the government in this time of crisis.
“The earlier the OWWA Act will be signed, the sooner it will be implemented to benefit OFWs who will be laid off because of falling oil prices,” he said.
“The OWWA Act will also institute the much-needed reforms to ensure transparency in the usage and management of the OWWA Funds, strengthen the safeguards in the use of the members’ contribution, and the development of programs that will ultimately redound to the benefit of our OFWs and their families,” Gatchalian said.