The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) has assisted the repatriation of more than 400 participants of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, and is currently processing the return of 300 more J-1 visa holders back to the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zamboanga City 2nd District Rep. Manuel Jose “Mannix” Dalipe, vice chairperson of the House Committee on Appropriations, relayed this during the House of Representatives’ plenary deliberations on the CFO’s proposed P157 million for 2021.
The sponsor of the CFO’s proposed spending plan for 2021 said as of August this year, the CFO has processed the repatriation of 746 overseas Filipinos, 438 of whom have arrived in the country.
He said among the assistance extended to the returning overseas Filipinos were hotel accommodation, swab test, and other basic services.
“Meron pa pong more or less 300 plus pa na under process (There are more or less 300 plus whose travel documents are being processed),” Dalipe said.
It was Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Ferdinand Gaite who inquired about the ongoing efforts of the CFO to assist the stranded J-1 visa holders in the United States.
“Kasi nabalitaan po namin ay ilan sa kanila ay stranded at walang source of income. Alam naman po natin ang nangyari rin sa Estados Unidos maraming mga negosyo ang nagsara at posibleng apektado sila,” Gaite said.
(Because we heard that some of them are stranded and have no source of income. We all know what happened to the United States that more businesses have closed down and possibly, they were affected.)
Dalipe relayed to the House panel that this year, the CFO has no funds for the Assistance to Nationals program to assist distressed overseas Filipinos given that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic crisis was not factored in the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
He said the assistance that will be given to overseas Filipinos depends on the Commission’s savings.
He said the Commission’s original proposed budget for 2021 is P236 million, but the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) only approved P157 million.
Dalipe said CFO wanted to restore the P69.6 million slashed from their budget, P12.9 million of which is intended to assist repatriated permanent migrants and other CFO clients.
“Kung mayroon pong karagdagan na puwede natin itulong sa CFO (If there is any additional budget support for the CFO), especially for 2021 budget, the CFO will be very happy to accept that,” the House leader said.
The House plenary decided to terminate the deliberations on the CFO’s proposed budget for 2021, upon the motion made by ACT Teachers partylist Rep. France Castro.