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Lawmaker seeks cash transfer for displaced OFWs

MANILA, Philippines – Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone proposed yesterday that the government embark on a cash transfer program for distressed or displaced overseas Filipino workers and their families.

He said Congress could start with P1 billion for an “unconditional cash transfer” fund.

He said the recent suicide of returning OFW Marlon Cueva inside the lavatory of a Gulf Air plane should prompt the government to launch a program similar to the P21-billion “conditional cash transfer” or CCT to the “poorest of the poor” households.

“Members of the family of Cueva were worrying about money for basic needs even in that time of great grief. The standard monetary assistance from the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration will be processed through the bureaucratic grind. This calls for the creation of a money pool for OFWs who fall into hard times and tragic circumstances,” he said.

He added that the moral and economic imperative to help distressed OFWs “is great and overwhelming.”

“We call them modern heroes and they have been the economy’s life support system for decades. And yet, while we can craft a P21-billion cash transfer for the poor, there is no similar assistance for OFWs and their families in dire straits,” Evardone stressed.

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He pointed out that government aid to OFWs in distress is wanting despite frequent acknowledgement of their invaluable contribution to the national economy.

“If there is any family in dire straits that need urgent cash relief from government, it is the OFW family, not those who have become dependent on CCT and waiting for their monthly allowance or subsidy,” he said.

Despite criticism from opposition congressmen and some from the majority, the House of Representatives approved President Aquino’s P21-billion CCT program for next year.

The program aims to give poor households a cash assistance of up to P1,400 a month for 12 months provided parents send their children to school and they attend family development sessions.

It targets up to 2.3 million beneficiaries in 2011 and up to four million in the succeeding years.

Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Padilla said the program would not really solve the problem of poverty and hunger and would just promote mendicancy.

The government should instead create jobs for the poor and the jobless or give them education so they could qualify for employment, he said.

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