MANILA — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) promised for “quicker response and improved services” with the signing of the new guidelines on the use of the P1-billion fund for distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano signed the new guidelines on the use of the Assistance to Nationals (ATN) Fund and the Legal Assistance Fund (LAF), saying the DFA will be in position to more effectively respond to the growing number of Filipinos abroad who encounter emergencies and problems abroad, and those who require government assistance
The new guidelines were prepared by the DFA’s Office of Migrant Workers Affairs a few days after Congress approved the President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to increase the ATN Fund from P400 million to P1 billion and the LAF from P100 million to P200 million for 2018.
“The President has vowed to provide a comfortable life for all Filipinos and recognized our overseas Filipinos as heroes for the sacrifices that they and their families back home are making,” Cayetano said.
“We cannot thank the President enough for this generous gesture that would now allow us to serve our kababayans abroad—whether documented or undocumented—much quicker and better,” the secretary added.
Cayetano also said he ordered a review and revision on the guidelines on the use of the ATN Fund and the LAF immediately after the President announced the budget augmentation for the DFA “to allow more flexibility in their disbursement, to expand the scope of the services covered, and to be more responsive to the needs of our distressed kababayans abroad.”
“The rationale behind the revised guidelines is for us to be able to help as many and as much without sacrificing the quality of our service,” Cayetano said.
“The LAF may be availed of by a distressed overseas Filipino who is unable to engage the services of private counsel, and who is in a country where there is no system of legal aid or public defenders, or where there is no access to counsel de officio, or any lawyer provided by the foreign host government,” the Secretary added.
The ATN funds, on the other hand, shall be used to cover welfare assistance, repatriation for distressed, including sick and deceased, Filipinos abroad. These now include door-to-door repatriation from the host country to the actual residence in the Philippines and in case of death, the cost of cremation or embalming and transport of remains to final destination in the Philippines, plus reasonable burial assistance.
Under the new guidelines, Secretary Cayetano said the DFA will not only provide care packages and basic supplies for Filipinos in death row or serving life sentences abroad but will also shoulder the cost of compassionate visits by their next of kin to the country of incarceration. This also covers Filipinos abroad with life-threatening illnesses.