(MENAFN - Arab News) A bank for migrant workers should be set up to handle the 35 million welfare fund currently being run by a Philippine government agency, a leading worker leader said.
Jun Aguilar, chief executive officer of the Filipino Migrant Workers Group (FMWG), said the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) currently runs the fund. However, the government does not contribute to the fund and instead earns money from it, he said.
The fund consists of 25 contributions or membership fees of 11 million overseas foreign workers signing up for new contracts. It is intended to provide for their welfare during emergencies, death or disability.
Aguilar said the Philippine government has not contributed any money to the fund since its inception 30 years ago. "If this is not highly irregular, I don't know what is," he said.
He said most of the fund's money, about 27 million, is deposited in government financing institutions. "This is one reason why I'm batting for the establishment of a migrant workers bank," Aguilar said.
Many overseas Filipino workers have welcomed the idea, which Aguilar said he has been pursuing since he left Riyadh 14 years ago.
Aguilar made the suggestion recently during a joint committee hearing attended by concerned Philippine senators including Jinggoy Estrada, Cynthia Villar and Nancy Binay. The meeting also tackled a law to protect the labor rights of hundreds of thousands of Filipino seafarers around the word, and the OWWA Charter.
"This has been my mantra ever since I started attending congressional and senate hearings over a decade ago," he said.
He questioned why the approved budget of the OWWA for 2013 allocates 69.5 percent for staffing, maintenance, operations and other expenses. Aguilar told Arab News that senators Estrada and Villar agreed to tackle the issues in the technical working group.