OWWA seeks P5B supplemental budget

THE OVERSEAS Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) on Wednesday asked the Senate for a P5 billion supplemental budget, citing that it is facing the risk of bankruptcy by the end of 2021. OWWA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac said the agency’s remaining P18.8 billion fund is expected to be reduced to P10 billion by Dec. 2020 as it spends for the accommodation and transportation expenses of returning workers. “We will be down to around P10 billion at the end of the year,” Mr. Cacdac told senators on Wednesday. “Another factor is the number of Filipinos coming home… If we’re looking at a worst case scenario, it could go up to 200,000 to 300,000 (workers)… By the end of next year, of 2021, if this trend keeps up, we will be down to less than P1 billion,” he told a Senate hearing. OWWA’s fund is mainly sourced from the required contributions of overseas Filipino workers. Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, for his part, recommended that OWWA first use its fund to assist workers before Congress considers an additional budget. “I strongly suggest that OWWA provide fullest assistance to the OFWs,” he said. Mr. Cacdac also said the agency is estimating up to 200,000 workers will seek reintegration assistance, much higher than the 35,000 annually before the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. In the same hearing, Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said the department will be requesting for additional allocation to accommodate more than 500,000 overseas workers applying for the cash assistance. The Department of Labor and Employment has so far released P1.8 billion out P2.5 billion of the Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong program targeted to help 250,000 displaced workers. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Transport groups says shift to modern jeepneys tough alongside coping with COVID impact

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION groups on Wednesday appealed for a rethink of the government’s modernization program as drivers and operators cope with the impact of the coronavirus crisis on their livelihood. Vigor D. Mendoza II, chair of the Kilusan sa Pagbabago ng Industriya ng Transportasyon (KAPIT), said while they support the transport modernization plan, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak has presented new challenges for its implementation. He cited that even consolidated operators and drivers could not access bank loans at this point to purchase electronic jeepneys as financial institutions reassess viability. “Sila ho ay nakikiramdam at gusto makita ang datos kung kikita ho talaga (The banks are still getting a feel of the situation and they want to see data if we will really earn) under 50% maximum seating capacity,” he said during a consultative meeting of the House committee on Metro Manila development on Wednesday. Manila Representative Manuel Luis T. Lopez, chair of the committee, expressed support to the group saying, “The government’s modernization program is laudable. However, we have to be realistic. Modern jeepneys cannot accommodate commuter demand. Traditional jeepneys must be utilized for now,” he said. Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines President Melencio Vargas also cited that some city buses have been authorized by government to take over some jeepney routes in some parts of Metro Manila.

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chairman Martin B. Delgra III explained that they are implementing a two-phased schedule for various modes of public transportation in Metro Manila. Yung polisiya na ‘yan (That policy) is based on the principle na given that we’re running at reduced capacity because of the pandemic,” he said, which is why modes of public transport that can accommodate more passengers are given priority. Marikina Rep. Stella Luz A. Quimbo, on the other hand, said such a policy of hierarchy would only work if the number of public utility vehicles are more than commuter demand. The panel required the LTFRB to submit their plans and programs to resolve the issues on transportation amid the pandemic. — Genshen L. Espedido

DBM to submit documents to Ombudsman for Health department probe

Department of Budget and Management (DBM) logo
THE DEPARTMENT of Budget and Management (DBM) on Wednesday said it will submit documents requested by the Ombudsman as it conducts a probe on the Health department’s response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis. Budget secretary Wendel E. Avisado, in a briefing, said they are ready to give the documents by tomorrow. “Nakahanda at bukasisusumite na namin (It’s ready and by tomorrow we will submit the documents),” he said. Ombudsman Samuel R. Martires last week said he has issued subpoenas to the Department of Health and the DBM for papers relating to the budget allocated for COVID-19 response measures and benefits to medical frontliners. The probe involves Health officials, including Secretary Francisco T. Duque III. Meanwhile, Mr. Avisado said government spending for the COVID-19 crisis has reached P355.6 billion, slightly higher than the P355.1 billion they reported earlier this month. — Gillian M. Cortez

Policy on foreigners’ entry to be decided next week

THE POLICY on allowing foreigners entry into the country will likely be decided by next week, according to Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra. The lifting of restrictions on foreigners involved in flagship projects as well as holders of permanent or long-term visas has been raised by the Department of Public Works and Highways and one embassy. “The IATF (inter-agency task force handling the coronavirus response) may decide on the matter next week,” he told reporters via Viber. He said they are studying the matter “very carefully” as the repatriation of thousands of displaced overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) remains a priority. “We have to deal with the repatriation of thousands of OFWs and we do not want them to be crowded out by foreign nationals who will likewise have to be tested and quarantined upon arrival,” he said. “If they (foreigners) comprise a manageable number, the IATF may consider to allow them to re-enter. Note that many of them are already here; it’s only those who were abroad and caught by the lockdown who wish to re-enter our country,” he added. Under current guidelines, the only foreign nationals allowed to travel to the Philippines are spouses of Filipinos and diplomats. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas