THE Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) labor union said legislators need to increase 2023 funding for the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) to ensure the availability of resources for protecting workers’ rights, welfare and social services. 

The KMU outlined its program in a march to the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City, where the House of Representatives is located. 

The Budget department allocated DoLE P25.90 billion in the 2023 National Expenditure Program (NEP), down 29.9% from 2022. The DMW, a new agency, has a proposed budget of P15.21 billion, When combined, the KMU said, funding for worker-focused frontline agencies amounted to only 0.78% of the National Government’s budget proposal, known as the NEP. 

Party-list Representative Raymond Democrito C. Mendoza said the DoLE “cannot perform its functions if its budget is limited.”

Labor Secretary Bienvenido E. Laguesma took no position on the issue of appropriate funding levels for his department, saying: “I defer to the wisdom of the appropriations committee of the House.”

Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez said he supports a funding increase of P1.5 billion for the agency, with P500 million each going to the Government Internship program, the Sustainable Livelihood program, and the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers program.  

Party-list Rep. Arlene D. Brosas described the DMW budget as limited relative to the impact on the economy of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), whose remittances are equivalent to 8.9% of gross domestic product. 

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said OFW cash remittances sent through banks amounted to $2.75 billion in June, the highest since December. 

The DMW budget includes P3.40 billion for the Office of the Secretary  and P11.70 billion for the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. 

Migrant Workers Undersecretary Maria Anthonette C. Velasco-Allones said that DMW welcomes the possibility of a budget increase if Congress supports it. 

Quezon City Rep. David C. Suarez also expressed support for a budget increase to ensure adequate funding to maintain the OFW Hospital in Pampanga, which offers free medical care to OFWs and their families.

Land for the hospital was donated by Pampanga province, while construction was funded by Bloomberry Cultural Foundation, Inc. Equipment acquisition was funded by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. — Kyanna Angela Bulan