THE Federation of Overseas Filipino Workers (FOFW) in Negros Occidental is urging the government to give attention to thousands of migrant workers and balikbayans in the province by providing them more benefits and services, their leader said.

Salvacion Barrios, president of FOWF in Negros Occidental and in Western Visayas, said the fund for OFWs is insufficient, thus they should be included in the budget for Gender and Development of the government.

FOFW records show that in Bacolod alone there are now about 18,000 OFWs, excluding those of other associations in the province.

Barrios said they will lobby with Senator Nancy Binay additional programs that will cater the OWFs who were left behind in terms of benefits and services. Binay was guest of honor and speaker during the Migrant Workers’ Day celebration at Robinsons Place Bacolod on Saturday.

Those balikbayans who were not able to continue working outside the country should be given livelihood assistance through skills training and financial support, she added.

Meanwhile, through the Migrant Workers’ Day celebration, Barrios said they are strengthening existing OFW associations in the province as well as encouraging local government units to create their own organizations that will push for the protection, benefits and overall welfare of overseas workers from their respective locality.

In Negros Occidental, there are only three existing OFW associations—those in Bacolod, Talisay and Toboso, Barrios said.

"We are also doing a barangay to barangay campaign to organize OFW associations to let them know the benefits and programs the government is offering and how to avail of it," she said.

She cited that through the government's National Reintegration Center for OFWs, distressed workers may avail of the P10,000 assistance.

By creating barangay linkages, the federation president said they can also easily and immediately respond to migrant workers’ complaints like maltreatment and illegal recruitment.

The FOFW hotline is 0921-6836480 and caters to any complaints, she said.