Drilon fears loss of P19B fund if OFW department created
MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon expressed concerns that the creation of a new department for overseas Filipinos workers (OFWs) would expose the P19 billion OFW trust fund to the “sticky hands of politicians.”
On Tuesday, during the organizational meeting of the Senate labor committee and labor officials, Drilon and other senators said they were puzzled as to why the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) changed its stand on the creation of an OFW department.
“Does the plan to create a separate Department of Overseas Filipino Workers have anything to do with the disposition of the P19 billion trust fund?” Drilon asked.
According to Overseas Workers Welfare (OWWA) Deputy Administrator Vivian Tornea, the agency’s trust fund amounts to approximately P19.4 billion per year.
Under the proposal, several agencies dealing with Filipinos overseas, including OWWA, will be integrated into one agency.
The trust fund, Drilon noted, was expected to grow to P40 billion in the next 10 years.
The trust fund, which comes from the contribution of OFWs, is lodged under OWWA and is currently administered by a Board of Trustees, which consists of heads of the finance and budget management departments as well as representatives from the various labor sectors and relevant agencies.
Drilon explained that the OWWA fund provides for a fund similar to the state insurance under the Social Security System and the Government Service Insurance System, which OFWs can turn to for assistance.
“Whoever will have control of this department being proposed to be created will have in his control P40 billion in 10 years’ time. It is even beyond the scrutiny of Congress because the Congress delegated to the Board of Trustees the disposition of these public funds contributed by OFWs,” he said.
Drilon further pointed out that creating a separate OFW department would recognize the failure of the government to bring overseas Filipinos back home and provide them with job opportunities in the Philippines.
“By creating a new department, the inevitable conclusion is the DOLE is lacking the abilities to protect the OFWs, which I don’t agree. I know the capability of our bureaucracy at the DOLE. I take exception to that,” Drilon, a former labor secretary, said.
“I will defend the DOLE insofar as their ability to discharge their duties in protecting our OFWs is concerned,” Drilon told Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipinos Abdullah Mama-o who has earlier backed the proposed creation of a new department.
While he was for the promotion of the welfare of millions of OFWs, Drilon said he saw no point in creating a new department.
“We can improve the current setup to address the challenges confronting our OFWs,” he said.
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