ANTIPOLO CITY, Sept 29, 2011—Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Hong Kong hit the Benigno C. Aquino III government for slashing the budget allocated for education and the migrant workers’ assistance funds.
In a statement, Dolores Balladres, chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Unifil-HK) said the recent budget cuts are evidence of gross neglect by the current administration of OFWs, whom they call “modern heroes” because of their multibillion dollar annual remittances.
Based on reports, the Budget department had slashed a total of P792 million (HK$142,210,389.49) on the budget of agencies supposed to help OFWs in distress.
“This government is leaving us to rot in jails, suffer from the extortion of unscrupulous agencies, bear the violence of abusive employers, give up our labor rights, and die without a hope of getting the assistance we need,” Balladres said.
The Philippine Government has only allocated P30 million (HK$5,385,335.67) for the OFW legal assistance funds, which is far from the one stipulated by the amended Migrants Act (Republic Act 10022), which is P100 million (HK$17,951,084.00).
“If there are 10 million OFWs around the world, the fund for legal assistance allotted to each of us is only P3 per OFW! No wonder Filipinos abroad in dire need of legal help do not find such with the Aquino government,” Balladres noted.
Meanwhile, Gabriela-HK vice chair Rowena de la Cruz assailed the cuts on the budget of the state universities and colleges (SUCs), saying that it would be an additional burden for migrant worker parent like her.
“As the ones who support our children, brothers and sisters, this will mean that we have to slave more abroad as the budget cuts will surely translate to tuition fee increase or other forms of financial requirements to them. Access to SUCs will also surely be even more restricted and thus, we have to put them in private schools whose uncontrollable drive for profit also means higher expenses for us,” explains de la Cruz.
For 2012 General Appropriations Act (GAA), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had allocated less than half of the proposed budget of P45 billion (HK$8,078,087,159.42) for the 110 SUCs—only P21.8 billion (HK$3,913,464,479.74).
Based on the reports from the Kabataan partylist, there are 50 schools that will have their total budget slashed by a combined P569.8 million (HK$102,292,863.97)—45 will have their MOOE [miscellaneous and other operational expenses] funds cut by P250.9 million (HK$45,042,817.88) and 58 will have cuts in Personal Services (PS) by P403.3 million (HK$72,400,595.50).
De la Cruz, nevertheless, said that they will not allow themselves to be milking cows by the government, in terms of their remittances and fees and tariffs being charged against them as they leave the country to work abroad.
The woman leader said that they will also launch their own protest actions in Hong Kong to press Congress to “restore” the slashed budget.
Gabriela and Unifil had recently launched a signature drive in Hong Kong and reportedly had gathered 4,000 signatures already in support of their cause. (Noel Sales Barcelona/CBCPNews)