Villanueva: Increase 2022 aid fund to distressed overseas Pinoys
The fund intended for helping Filipinos overseas, including over 10 million overseas Filipinos, in the 2022 national budget should be augmented to reflect how the government values the welfare of overseas Filipinos, Senator Joel Villanueva said today.
According to the National Expenditure Program for next year released by the DBM recently, Villanueva said the Assistance to Nationals (ATN) Fund of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was proposed at P1 billion, which remained unchanged as this is the same amount allocated this year. The same is true for the Legal Assistance Fund (LAF), which stood at P200 million.
“We should at least increase the funds for ATN and LAF to P2 billion. The 2022 national budget says the ATN will only be enough to assist 145,000 overseas Filipinos. Parang P6,896 kada distressed overseas Filipino po iyan. Napakaliit naman po na halaga ito kumpara sa laki ng kanilang ambag sa ekonomiya ng bansa,” said Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee.
“Napakaliit na halaga nito, lalo na ngayong pandemya na marami sa ating mga kababayan lalo na yaong mga nasa ibang bansa ang humaharap sa maraming hamon. Walang pamilya o tulong na maasahan kundi ang gobyerno,” he added.
"We should at least increase the funds for ATN and LAF to P2 billion. The 2022 national budget says the ATN will only be enough to assist 145,000 overseas Filipinos. Parang P6,896 kada distressed overseas Filipino po iyan. Napakaliit naman po na halaga ito kumpara sa laki ng kanilang ambag sa ekonomiya ng bansa."
If the remittance data in 2020 were any indication, the senator said that overseas Filipinos continue to buoy the country's economy by collectively sending a total of $33.19 billion, or P1.646 trillion.
"Ang computation po nito ay mahigit P4.5 bilyon kada araw ang remittance nila. At kung ikukumpara sa P1 bilyon na budget ng ATN para sa isang taon, katumbas lang po ito ng ilang oras na remittance ng ating mga overseas Filipinos," Villanueva said.
"Kaya may basehan po talaga na itaas ang halagang ito. And I believe that our overseas Filipinos deserve better from our government," he added.
Villanueva noted that if the government has instituted safety nets in the national budget like P115.7 billion for the implementation of the 4Ps program, all the more that a productive sector such as overseas Filipinos deserve assistance when they need it.
"Kahit meron pong P11.2 bilyon na nakalaan sa P12.8 bilyon na proposed budget ng OWWA sa 2022 para sa assistance sa OFWs, malaki naman ang saklaw nito kasi kasama ang reintegration services tulad ng livelihood services, reskilling at beneficiary assistance tulad ng scholarship dependents," he said.