A panel in the House of Representatives has recommended for plenary consideration several pieces of legislation that aim to protect the remittances of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
This was as the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, chaired by Kabayan party-list Rep. Ron Salo, on Thursday began deliberationson House Bills 185, 1190, 2944, 3020, 4170, 4257, 4343, 4397 and 4469.
These bills propose a 50-percent discount on remittance fees, which would eventually be granted as tax deductions for the service providers.
The committee eventually consolidated and approved the nine bills and took note of position papers to be submitted by concerned agencies and organizations in crafting the substitute bill.
Citing a World Bank study, Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales Jr. said OFWs paid $3.44 billion in fees on the $31.4 billion they sent home to their families last year.
“That is P95.67 billion in extra money going to OFW families, instead of that huge amount accruing to banks that are raking in tens of billions in profits. Let us choose to help our OFWs and their families, rather than make bank owners richer,” the Pampanga lawmaker noted.
He pointed out that if the P95.67 billion were divided equally among 2.3 million OFW families, each would have received an additional P41,600. He added that banks would still have earned $1.72 billion.
The House had approved the bill on third and final in December 2020 during the 18th Congress, but the Senate failed to pass its version of the measure.
Under HB No. 185, banks and non-bank financial intermediaries could claim the 50-percent remittance discount for OFWs as an expense deductible from their gross income.
They would be prohibited from increasing their fees without prior consultation with the Department of Finance (DOF), Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
These remittance establishments would also be required to post inconspicuous places on their premises the prevailing foreign exchange rate to be used in converting OFW remittances into Philippine pesos.
Tarlac Rep. Christian Tell Yap, author of HB 1190, lamented the lack of information among OFWs who are not informed by service providers about certain money-transfer fees and charges when sending money to their families.
Once enacted, Yap said his proposal shall require intermediary financial institutions to actively disclose their service fees, thereby ensuring compliance with proper and just practices under the law.
Citing the OFWs’ high contribution to the Philippine economy through remittances, Yap said the bill would help protect the financial welfare of OFWs, as well as sustain the country’s economic growth.
For his part, Rep. Antonio Legarda Jr. of the lone district of Antique, author of HB 3020, said his proposal prohibit any fees imposed without prior consultation with the Department of Finance and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
Meanwhile, the Salo committee also tackled HBs 365, 1188, and 3378, establishing a credit assistance program for OFWs.
In her sponsorship speech for HB 3378, Cavite Rep. Lani Mercado-Revilla noted that the measure would allow prospective OFWs with a valid contract certified by the Philippine Overseas Employment
Administration to apply for a loan of up to PHP50,000 from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.
This is to cover the living expenses of their families at the start of employment, and other expenses incurred during pre-employment, she added.
Credit belongs to : www.manilastandard.net