MANILA, Philippines- Senate President Manny Villar on Thursday admonished the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) for suspending its pre-departure loan program to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
In a statement, Villar said OWWA’s suspension of the loan program have shattered the hopes and chances of many financially incapable workers who wanted to earn a decent living abroad.
"With the suspension of the loan program the OWWA leave our OFWs at the mercy of loan sharks," Villar said.
OWWA recently announced that it was suspending its pre-departure loans to OFWs after incurring an estimated P70 million in losses due to non-payment of some members. It has reportedly granted P70 million in loans "but only 30 percent (of the OFWs) have been paying back."
According to Villar, instead of immediately blocking the access of OFWs in dire need of pre-departure loans, OWWA should have first considered improving its collection system to make it more effective and recoup its losses.
Villar took note of Labor Secretary and concurrent OWWA chief Marianito Roque's statement that despite the loss, the agency remained financially stable with an estimated P10 billion assets from collected $25 OWWA membership fee from OFWs.
"Pre-departure assistance to OFWs is a very crucial component of our efforts to enable our workers to grab work opportunities abroad," the senator said.
Villar emphasized that many OFWs encounter problems abroad like non-payment of their wages, human trafficking and legal cases which make them incapable of paying their loans but an efficiently managed system should take these into consideration.
Villar who helped repatriate 15 distressed OFWs from the Middle East last month had filed a bill to create a P1-billion special repatriation fund. -Fidel Jimenez, GMANews.TV