The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) on Saturday vowed judicious public fund use, through full transparency and accountability, after the Philippine Senate approved its PHP16.3 billion budget which is allotted for projects in aid of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and their families. According to the Philippine state media, the upper chamber approved the budget in plenary Friday, allowing the new agency to inch closer to its first full-year budget since its creation.

“A lot of hard work went into the crafting, defending and approval of the DMW’s 2023 budget. We appreciate our legislators’ love and compassion for our OFWs and their families,” Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople said Saturday.

The agency explained that at least PHP4.32 billion is set aside for the Office of the Secretary (OSEC), PHP11.76 billion for the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and PHP230 million as annual recurring allocations for retirement and life insurance premiums (RLIP).

The OSEC would set up 16 regional offices and centers, Overseas Employment Adjudication Offices in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Regions 3 (Central Luzon), 4-A (Calabarzon), 7 (Central Visayas), and 11 (Davao Region); and expand Migrant Workers Offices (MWOs), formerly known as Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs), in selected overseas locations.

The agency stated that the new regional offices and centers would make the DMW and its services accessible to OFWs and their families based in the provinces. Other key programs to be funded include digital modernization of its information and communications technology capability.

Moreover, the Senate provided an additional PHP500 million for the operations of the OFW Hospital in Mabalacat, Pampanga. OWWA also received an additional PHP100 million, which will be used to help establish OWWA regional offices in Mindanao.

Senate Finance sub-committee Chair Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, who sponsored the department’s budget, said the move will make the department a fully constituted agency of government, while commending Ople’s qualifications. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, one of the principal authors of Republic Act 11641, or the law creating the DMW, expressed hopes that the current structure of the DMW would address the concerns of migrant workers and assured commitment to aiding the agency. Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, on the other hand, expressed support for the DMW budget, seeing it as a way of giving back to OFWs for keeping the country’s economy afloat.

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