The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) on Tuesday belied Migrante's claim that it has denied benefits to some 50 OFWs, including one who was paralyzed following an accident in the United Arab Emirates.
Interviewed by phone, Albert Q. Valenciano of OWWA's Policy & Program Development Office told GMA News Online on Tuesday that Eugenia Bayer Perez, the paralyzed former domestic helper in the UAE, was given financial assistance two years ago.
"Contrary to what was reported, OFW Perez received her disability benefit in the amount of P25,000.00. It was released to her on January 2, 2013," Valenciano said.
"Moreover, considering her medical condition at the time of the unfortunate incident, OWWA Central Office processed her claim instead of OWWA Region 4-A, which has the jurisdiction of her case since OFW Perez is from Batangas," he added.
He also said they already had a number of medical-related requests from OFWs endorsed to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) as part of their benefits.
"As a membership-based institution, we cater to the needs of OWWA members. However, we find ways to provide appropriate assistance to OFWs or their families through our partnerships with other agencies and entities," Valenciano said.
At a press briefing in Cubao last week, Migrante said the claimants, including Perez, were told last September 10 that they could not receive any benefits from the agency because of the OWWA Omnibus Policies, a controversial policy that has been questioned before the Supreme Court.
Valenciano said a meeting was arranged between OWWA officials, including Administrator Rebecca Calzano, and 36 members of Migrante International last September 8 and 10 regarding the exact benefits OFWs can expect from the agency.
"[Calzado] explained to the group that the agency does not offer financial assistance to non-OWWA members except in certain emergency cases, for instance, requiring mandatory repatriation of OFWs due to fortuitous events such as war, epidemic or natural calamities in their country of employment," he said.
He added: "The cash assistance given to affected OFWs necessitates the approval of the OWWA Board of Trustees. This was the case in Syria and Libya. If the concerned workers are not entitled to the cash assistance, what OWWA offers the workers is livelihood assistance through the Balik-Pinas, Balik-Hanapbuhay Program."
While only nine of the 36 OFWs were from the National Capital Region, all qualified applicants in the group were scheduled for Entrepreneurial Development Training (EDT) and skills training either on September 22 or September 23, Valenciano said. —KBK, GMA News