OWWA wants to utilize ₱9.7-B emergency repatriation funds for OFW facilities

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 11) - The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) on Tuesday said it is seeking to build more facilities for overseas Filipino workers (OFW) through its ₱9.7-billion emergency repatriation funds (ERF) in 2024.

OWWA Administrator Arnell Ignacio said that he proposed to the Senate on Monday that the agency be allowed to have more flexibility in the usage of its ERF as the General Appropriations Act limits them to use it for other purposes.

"Kaya ang hinihiling lang namin sa Senate at sa Congress, exactly yang salita na 'yan flexibility on how to use our ERF or emergency repatriation fund," said Ignacio in a press briefing. "Kasi napakalaki ng pera namin, pero yung utilization napakababa."

[Translation: What we are requesting to the Senate and Congress is to have flexibility on how to use our ERF or emergency repatriation fund. Because we have lots of funds, but the utilization is low.]

Ignacio said the lawmakers welcomed the proposal.

The OWWA administrator said that the agency wants to improve shelters abroad and build more halfway houses in the country for OFWs.

"Mas gusto sana namin itong mapayagan kami gumasta para mas mapalaki, mapaganda, maging maayos yung mga shelters natin," said Ignacio. "Gusto namin makapagtayo ng mga halfway house, kaysa bayad kami nang bayad sa mga hotels."

[Translation: We want to be allowed to utilize the fund more so we can widen and improve our shelters. We want to build more halfway houses, so we don't have to pay hotels.]

The Commission on Audit commended OWWA for utilizing 99.99% of its ₱17.3 billion ERF in 2021 for the accommodation, transportation, financial assistance, and other COVID-19 incidental expenses of the repatriated OFWs.