The Assistance to Nationals (ATN) fund of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will increase by 140% to P1 billion, together with the said department’s Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) doubling to P200 million in 2018, Ralph Recto, Senate President Pro-Tempore said in a statement today, August 15.
The ATN and LAF funds are for assisting Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in times of distress like repatriation, shipment of remains, hospitalizations, temporary accommodation, food and basic supplies and other similar expenses. Recto has been campaigning for it to rise to at least P1 billion, which is attainable now with the proposed 2018 national budget – in which DFA proposed P19.5 billion.
“It is a big jump. The challenge now is how to increase it yearly. It should not be static again. ‘Yung (The) P1 billion, kulang pa rin (is still insufficient),” Recto said.
However, the President Pro-Tempore is calling for a “singular budget tally” to clearly identify and distinguish all fund sources of OFW assistance, and to know if it is sufficient.
“Sa ngayon kasi dispersed ang mga ‘yan. Mayroon sa DFA, mayroon sa DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment), mayroon sa OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration), pati nga sa DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) (As of now the fund is dispersed. There is one for DFA, one for DOLE, for OWWA, even for DSWD), doon sa (and for) reception and processing of repatriated Filipinos, like from Malaysia, ay mayroon din pondo,” he said.
On August 14, Recto was seeking an allocation for a ‘contingency fund’ for distressed OFWs, after the tensions rising between North Korea and United States of America. He mentioned that the ATN fund of P400 million on 2017 was not enough.
“There should be provisions for safe havens and secure escape routes. Our foreign posts must be given the capacity to make the arrangements. It should not be limited to plans and advisories,” Recto said.