Gov’t readies funds for repatriation of OFWs in Middle East
MANILA, Philippines — The government has enough funds for the repatriation of Filipinos in the Middle East amid the escalating tension between the United States and Iran.
After signing the P4.1-trillion 2020 budget on Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte asked Congress and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to source out “standby funds” to be used to evacuate Filipino workers in the Gulf region should the situation there escalates into a war.
But According to Budget Assistant Secretary Rolando Toledo, the government already has the funds even before the President’s directive.
Toledo said the government can tap funds from the 2020 appropriation of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) which could total around P1.8 billion.
The P13-billion contingent fund in the 2020 budget may also be utilized subject to the approval of the President, the Budget official said.
“We have the money, a standby fund ready. The government is ready if there is a need for a call for the repatriation of overseas Filipino workers (in the Middle East),” Toledo said in a press briefing in Malacañang.
A US airstrike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani five days ago prompted Tehran to launch missile strikes against two Iraqi military bases housing American troops.
After the missile attacks, the Philippine government has ordered the mandatory repatriation of Filipinos in Iraq.
Based on the latest Philippine Statistics Authority data, about 1.26 million OFWs in 2018 are in the Middle East or West Asia, which included Bahrain, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
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