GMA bares P1-billion livelihood fund for displaced workers

Published by rudy Date posted on February 5, 2009

President Arroyo announced that a P1-billion livelihood support fund for displaced overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) is now available.

The President assured OFWs that the government is prepared to take care of those who will lose their jobs because of the global financial crisis.

Speaking before the Filipino community in Bahrain last Tuesday, the President ordered Labor Secretary Marianito Roque to ensure that the implementation of the programs for displaced Filipino workers abroad would be simple and not complicated.

Roque noted that the funds were sourced from the Overseas Workers Welfare Adinistration (OWWA) and government-owned banks such as the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and the Land Bank of the Philippines.

Displaced OFWs would have the opportunity to borrow from the fund to start their own small and medium enterprises.

The President said it is now payback time for the OFWs whose contributions to the country, including their remittances, have helped ensure the economic growth of the Philippines.

Mrs. Arroyo noted that the government is now conducting an online information drive through to help Filipino expatriate workers search for job and employment opportunities via the Internet.

Meanwhile, OWWA chief Carmelita Dimzon yesterday said that the P11-billion fund set aside for displaced OFWs was still intact and would not be allocated for the government’s planned P330-billion economic stimulus package.

Dimzon made the clarification after members of Migrante International staged a rally in front of the OWWA office in Pasay City to oppose any plan to use OWWA’s P11-billion fund for the stimulus package.

“The OWWA fund would not be tapped for the stimulus package, there is no such plan,” Dimzon said.

Dimzon said the OWWA fund would only be used to help displaced OFWs get new jobs or look for alternative sources of livelihood.

Mrs. Arroyo told OFWs in Bahrain that the Filipino Expatriate Livelihood Support Fund (FELSF) would come from the OWWA. Dimzon said the FELSF is being implemented purposely to provide P10,000 grants for displaced workers to put up their own business and an additional capital of P50,000.

Dimzon said part of the P1-billion was given by Land Bank and the DBP.

The President earlier allocated P330 billion for infrastructure projects like school buildings, irrigation systems, roads and bridges, saying these projects are part of the stimulus package for displaced workers.

Economic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto had already clarified that part of the economic stimulus package would come from the proposed P1.415-trillion 2009 national budget while the rest would come from government financial institutions, including the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and Social Security System(SSS), private commercial banks, tax relief and corporate reduction of income tax.

“The P160-billion is the amount of the increase in the budget from 2008. This funds the small, community-level infrastructure projects which are listed in the national budget,” Recto said in his briefing to congressmen yesterday.

The GSIS and SSS will provide P50 billion for large infrastructure, while an equal amount will come from private commercial banks.

Of the P50-billion from the government sector, GSIS and SSS would each contribute P12.5 billion, Land Bank would chip in P12.5 billion, and DBP would shell out P12.5 billion.

Recto did not name the private banks that would put up the other P50-billion infrastructure fund.

He said the fund would be used for “efficient mass transportation” projects such as the extension of the existing light rail lines in Metro Manila, construction of the Tarlac-La Union Expressway, expansion of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, Angeles City, and the building of a grand central station for the mass rail system along EDSA.

He said P40 billion of the P330-billion economic stimulus package would be in the form of tax relief arising from an increase in workers’ tax exemptions (P20 billion) and the reduction in the corporate income tax (P20 billion).

The remaining P30-billion would be in the form of additional benefits to GSIS and SSS members, he added.   -– Marvin Sy and Mayen Jaymalin with Jess Diaz, Philippine Star

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