Recto eyes contingency fund to rescue OFWs

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SENATE President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto sought the allocation of a “contingency fund” that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) can use to rescue Filipinos in countries with brewing crisis situations.

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“There should be provisions for safe havens and secure escape routes. Our foreign posts must be given the capacity to make the arrangements. It should not be limited to plans and advisories,” Recto said.

The senator cited the proposed budget of the Philippine Embassy in Seoul, the South Korean capital located 35 miles from its border with North Korea, which is embroiled in tensions following a series of missile tests by North Korea.

He said the Philippine embassy in Seoul has a proposed budget of P109 million for 2018 or about $2 million for one whole year in one of the world’s most expensive cities.

Recto said the budget of the Philippine embassy in Seoul should be increased especially at a time when tensions in the Korean peninsula are high.

“The operating budget of these embassies and consulates must be augmented. When there is a crisis to prepare for, their resources must be increased,” he said, adding that Filipino workers in South Korea currently send about P1 billion a month to the Philippines.

Recto said the DFA’s Assistance to Nationals (ATN) Fund of P400 million for 2017 is not enough.

On top of the P400 million, there is a P100 million Legal Assistance Fund for Overseas Filipino Workers in trouble with the law in their host countries.

Meanwhile, the foreign affairs department on Sunday assured the public that contingency measures are in place in case the People Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK) makes good its threat to launch missiles towards Guam.

In a statement, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said he received assurances from Ambassador Raul Hernandez in Seoul and Consul General Marciano de Borja in Agana that their respective contingency plans for the Filipino community are in place in case the situation in the Korean Peninsula escalates further.

There are 65,000 Filipinos in South Korea and another 42,835 in Guam.

The DFA called on the United States and the DPRK to exercise restraint and take the necessary steps to avoid escalating tensions.

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