BILLIONS of pesos are poured into the national coffers yearly by our modern-day heroes, our overseas Filipino workers or OFWs. More aspirants go out of the country in droves daily and there is no way we can persuade them to just stay here, due to various reasons, foremost of which is financial. This aspect is undisputed and remains so.

A handful of government agencies pitch in to extend assistance to our OFWs who are currently at work and to the returning ones, whether alive, distressed or in coffins: Department of Labor and Employment and its attached agencies, namely: POEA and Owwa (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) and Department of Foreign Affairs.

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The POEA, or Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, is mandated to monitor, among other functions, overseas employment contracts, placement and working conditions and benefits of outgoing OFWs. On the other hand, the Owwa is tasked "to promote the welfare and well-being of overseas Filipino workers and their families. In the leaflet given this writer by Region 3 Family Welfare Officer Renard Bartolome last week, it can be read that Owwa provides services and benefits on top of those provided in the OFWs' employment contracts."

The regional office of Owwa, situated along MacArthur Highway, Barangay Dolores, City of San Fernando, is headed by Director Socorro B. Castro.

Among the benefits being afforded member-OFWs are: subsidized medical and hospitalization, a special health package to extend sustainable medical rehabilitation for returning OFWs who may either be suffering any form of mental disorder or illness or physical disability which may be work-related; disability and dismemberment benefit of up to P50,000; total disability benefit of P100,000 in case of total permanent disability and death, burial, education and training benefits.

We see now that Owwa is not only concerned about the OFW but also his family members and beneficiaries. Aside from the reintegration into the mainstream of returning OFWs, active or inactive, scholarships are being given their school-aged children and dependents. Likewise, values re-orientation and financial literacy seminars and entrepreneurial development and skills trainings are being conducted for OFW beneficiaries.

To cap the series of activities affecting OFWs, nominations are solicited for Model OFW Family of the Year awards. These may be sent to Owwa Regional Office on or before September 17, 2010. Seventeen land based and sea-based regional finalists will be chosen in October and then the National Champion will be known in December 2010. Inquiries may be made at Owwa's regional office with telephone numbers (045) 861 0931 and (045) 860-6029.

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Edpam at the helm. Proving seriously true to his campaign pledge, Mayor Edgardo "Edpam" D. Pamintuan is leading the way to improve his city's status, including the gnawing garbage problems he inherited from the previous administration. Now he is setting his sights on vital infrastructure and fiscal management as well as the city's contracted obligations.

At the rate Mayor Ed is pacing himself in his routine, he may eclipse his predecessor's so-called accomplishments in much shorter time. Edpam means business, serious business, that is, including ridding his city of bad elements.

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I have not had the time to formally write about the receptiveness of the Mabalacat Sangguniang Bayan members to PESO Mabalacat's requests for additional funding to defray the salaries of this year's participants in the town's summer hire program. First off, Councilors Oscar Aurelio and Froylan Galang who so graciously presided over a committee meeting to tackle the first request for supplemental budget for the SPES participants. The said request, which was favorably endorsed by Mayor Marino "Boking" P. Morales, thru then Vice Mayor Pros Lagman and Budget Officer Rogelio C. Tanglao, was swiftly acted upon by said Councilors Aurelio and Galang. It is now in the Municipal Treasurer's turf and discretion to pay the salaries of the SPES participants. I know that Mesdames Myrna S. Ocampo and Marlene M. Mendiola (and of course, Leng Rodrillo) may, and can, find ways to go about fast tracking payments of the said salaries. I ask the parents and guardians and the students to be just patient at mababayaran lahat nang hinihintay na sahod. Credit is also due to now Vice Mayor Noelito B. Castro, also for his attentiveness and immediate support to Peso's request for supplemental budget.

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Tomorrow, applicants for Guam slots are better advised to come early for the interviews to be conducted by YWA Human Resources Corporation, courtesy of Janessa Medina-Bacolod, the firm's recruitment manager. As usual, applicants are expected to behave properly.