DFA chief vows more, improved services for distressed OFWs with P1B budget
The government’s response time in assisting distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will improve significantly next year as President Rodrigo Duterte approved a P1-billion budget for the program, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said on Tuesday.
Cayetano assured Filipino diplomats, especially in the Middle East, that they would be provided with the resources they need to allow them to more effectively assist Filipinos in distress.
“I would like to assure them that they will have all the support they would need to let them accomplish the instructions of the President for them to better serve and protect our kababayans there,” Cayetano said in a statement.
“Our diplomats cannot be expected to quickly respond to any request for assistance from our kababayans in the Middle East and in other parts of the world if they cannot be provided with the resources they need to be able to do so,” he added.
The additional funding will go to the Assistance to Nationals (ATN) program and will allow embassies and consulates general to respond more quickly and more effectively.
According to Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has already spent almost 60 percent of the P400-million that was allocated by Congress to support ATN operations abroad in 2017.
Arriola said diplomats she met with have requested additional budgetary support from Manila to allow them to effectively respond to ATN cases and extend prompt consular services to their constituents.
“With the increase in ATN funding, we should be able to accommodate more overseas Filipinos who would need our assistance,” Arriola said.
“We will use those funds to cover not just the usual rescues and repatriations but also to open new shelters, hire more translators, interpreters and other personnel and purchase equipment needed by our posts,” she added. JPV
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