DFA: P52-M in legal aid to OFWs untapped
MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is seeking to expand the coverage of its legal assistance fund for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are in distress in order to be able to help more of them, after noting that most of the fund remained unused.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told a House budget hearing on Monday that P52.2 million of the legal assistance fund remained unspent and that only P7.78 million was used because the Migrant Workers Act puts a ceiling on the amount of assistance that could be provided to OFWs.
Only 196 overseas workers had availed themselves of the fund from 2011 to August this year, Del Rosario said.
He said the Migrant Workers Act limits the use of the fund. For instance, assistance for private counsel fees, whether local or foreign, is limited to $3,000 (roughly P126,000). Bail and court fees should not exceed $500 (P21,000), while litigation expenses and case settlements are only covered up to $3,000.
“Obviously, the list includes several reasons and occasions for providing support, but all of these have limitations and I think we’re revisiting these to be able to come up with recommendations for increasing the limits and broadening the benefits so that a greater part of the legal assistance fund can be used for the purpose for which it was created,” Del Rosario said.
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