Press Release
April 19, 2016


Citing the contribution of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in keeping the Philippine economy afloat for many years through the remittances they send, Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero said the "Gobyernong may Puso" plans to embark on a multibillion-peso spending for programs that will take care of their needs.

Speaking in a forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) on Monday, Escudero said the comprehensive program will include the creation of a separate department that will cater to concerns of the OFWs and beefing up of embassy staff to assist them.

"We have to give back more to our OFWs. They deserve it," said Escudero, an independent vice-presidential candidate.

In the ABS-CBN's "Harapan ng Bise" debate last Sunday, Escudero bared for the first time the plan of "Gobyernong may Puso" of leading presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe to allocate P100 billion for OFW services, the biggest budget to be provided by any administration to migrant workers.

The proposed P100-billion fund, he said, is just a small token of gratitude for the invaluable contribution of OFWs to the economy.

"The OFWs are the reason why we're here. For the first time, our OFW remittances equal our debt which is why we are allowed to borrow (from international financial institutions). But what have we done for them? On VAT (value-added tax) alone, we're getting money from the ones they sent. But what's our program for them?" Escudero asked.

If elected into office, Escudero said, he and Poe will put in place a clear policy to help the OFWs, who have long been shortchanged by the government despite the billions of dollars they pour into the economy, by previous administrations.

One major program the "Gobyernong may Puso" plans to implement is the portability of government health insurance to allow overseas migrant workers Filipinos to use their card from the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) even in health facilities abroad.

"We'd like to focus on PhilHealth, so that they (OFWs) can use it wherever they are (in the world)," Escudero said.

According to Escudero, part of the expanded services to the OFWs is the setting up of a pension fund for them.

He said they will also work toward legitimizing all undocumented OFWs, the most vulnerable sector among the estimated 10 million Filipinos working abroad, because they are not covered by certain legal protections.

"We need to make all illegal OFWs legal. Isn't the role of the government to provide them legal assistance instead of them doing everything alone?" Escudero said.

According to Escudero, they plan to increase the P100-million legal assistance fund for OFWs facing criminal charges or convicted.

There are some 2.3 million OFWs around the world, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority as of 2014 . Although the total migrant population is estimated to be around 10 million or 10 percent of the country's population.

The official Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas figures show that OFWs remit about $28.5 billion, or roughly P1.3 billion, a year.

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