Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go expressed his unequivocal support for the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) and its proposed 2024 budget during a budget hearing on Monday, September 18.
Also included in the hearing is the proposed budget for the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
“I want to put on the record my full support for the proposed budget of the Department of Migrant Workers and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration,” Go declared.
He further stated, “Ako po ay lubos pusong sumusuporta sa mga nakahanda pang plano at programa ng departamentong ito para sa ating mga kapwa Pilipino na nag tratrabaho sa labas ng ating bansa.”
Go highlighted the important role played by Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), and referred to them as modern-day heroes. “Maituturing natin ang OFWs na modern day heroes. Kasama ang iba pang Filipinos abroad, mahigit 10 milyon po yan,” he said.
He also acknowledged the support of his fellow senators, stating, “Masaya po ako noong nakaraang kongreso talaga isinulong natin na magkaroon talaga ng sariling ahensya po para sa ating OFWs, sa tulong ng ating mga kasamahan, sa pangunguna ng ating majority leader Senator Joel Villanueva. Of course, Senator (Ronald) Bato dela Rosa at, ngayon, full support po sa atin si Senator JV Ejercito.”
Meanwhile, Go raised significant concerns about the underutilization of the Agarang Kalinga at Saklolo para sa mga OFWs na Nangangailangan (AKSYON) Fund, a financial resource designated for the immediate care and assistance of OFWs in need.
“I note that P1.2 billion budget for the Agarang Kalinga at Saklolo para sa mga OFWs na Nangangailangan or AKSYON Fund has not been fully utilized as of August 31. Only 20 percent has been utilized.”
In addition to the issue of fund utilization, Go also drew attention to the human resources aspect of the department.
“I also echo the concern last hearing that 60 percent of the positions in the department are still unfilled. Sana po magawan ito ng paraan ng DMW para ma-maximize natin ang pagbibigay ng serbisyo sa ating mga OFWs,” urged Go.
Go also took the opportunity to discuss the state and condition of the OFW Hospital, a facility aimed at providing comprehensive health-care services to OFWs who return to the Philippines.
“Natalakay rin ang estado at kalagayan ng OFW Hospital, at gusto ko ring maipahayag ang aking sentimento patungkol sa usaping ito. Ang OFW Hospital ay naglalayong mapangalagaan ang kalusugang medikal, pisikal, at mental ng ating mga OFWs na bumalik dito sa ating bansa,” he said.
Further elaborating on the OFW Hospital, Go expressed concern about the budget allocated for its operations. He noted, “I want to also mention, Mr. Chair, the decrease in the proposed budget for the operation of the OFW Hospital. Only P13 million is allocated for its operations in the 2024 budget.”
Additionally, Go advocated for the passage of a legislation that would prioritize funding for the OFW Hospital by institutionalizing it.