MANILA – The national government will not allow the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to go bankrupt, Malacañang said on Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac warned that his agency could go bankrupt by the end of 2021 if the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic continues.

He said the OWWA, an attached agency of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), was already working to avoid this by asking the Senate for a PHP5 billion supplemental budget to sustain its budget for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Earlier, the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) sought the delayed implementation of the Universal Healthcare Law due to the depleting budget of the state health insurer.

Roque, however, said Duterte and lawmakers would find a way to augment the state-run health insurer’s funds.

“Sa panahon po ng pandemya, ang OWWA at ang PhilHealth hindi po natin papayagang malugi (At this time of pandemic, the government will not allow the OWWA and PhilHealth to go bankrupt),” he said in a virtual presser.

Roque said both the executive and legislative branches of government would work together to ensure that OFWs, especially those displaced by the pandemic, would be provided with cash and/or livelihood assistance.

“Suportado na po ng mga senador na bibigyan sila ng supplemental budget na 5 billion at iyan po ay patunay na hindi natin pababayaan ang ating OFWs, ang ating mga mamamayan sa panahon ng pandemya (Senators have expressed their willingness to provide a supplemental budget worth PHP5 billion and that is proof that we will not leave OFWs and other Filipinos behind in the time of pandemic),” he said.

Roque assured that the Philippine Embassy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would look into reports that OFWs have resorted to selling their blood after losing their jobs there.

“Pinaimbestigahan na po iyan sa ating LABATT o iyong Labor Attaché natin, as we speak, at minamabuti po natin na makarating pati po iyong mga ayuda na binibigay natin sa mga OFWs natin na hindi makauwi dahil sa lockdown (We have asked the Labor Attaché to investigate that incident, as we speak, and we have made sure that our stranded OFWs affected by the lockdown will be given assistance),” he said.

As for reports of some 250 displaced OFWs in Hong Kong, Roque said the government has arranged a chartered flight for their return home.

Concerned agencies, he said, are seeking permission from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to allow the return of the displaced OFWs from Hong Kong.

“Humingi na lang po ng pahintulot sa IATF para makauwi po iyong chartered plane kasama itong 250 na na-layoff na mga kababayan natin sa Hong Kong (We are also seeking permission from the IATF to allow the return of the chartered plane carrying these 250 OFWs who were laid off from work),” Roque said.

More than 52,000 OFWs have returned home since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, data from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) showed.

About 30,000 OFWs are expected to return home in the next few months, authorities said.

Meanwhile, Roque said the DOLE would expedite the process of providing assistance to non-OFWs whose livelihoods were also affected by the pandemic. (PNA)