After facing backlash over reports of possible anomalies in hotel bookings for OFWs, OWWA conducts an audit but hastens to assure everyone that all bookings are above board.
Hotel Booking Irregularities by OWWA?
Acting on reports that there are supposedly irregularities in the hotel bookings for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) conducts an internal audit and promises to submit results of the internal accounting within the month to Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III.
OWWA administrator Hans J. Cacdac assures everyone, however, that the government agency can withstand audit as all transactions are legitimate and hotel bookings are above board. He added that the hotel booking committee has been ‘strengthened’ to ensure accountability and transparency in all hotel bookings.
Amid claims that ‘brokers’ are making the bookings with ‘favored’ hotels for a corresponding fee, Cacdac clarified that all hotel bookings are done in coordination with the Philippine Hotel Owners Association (PHOA) and the Department of Tourism (DOT).
There were also claims of ‘padded’ hotel receipts, but Cacdac said that OWWA has even asked the DOT to help ‘negotiate’ for lower rates with some hotels. For example, they were to negotiate for hotels to lower their daily rates from Php3,500 or Php3,800 to just Php3,000.
Cacdac also said that OWWA has stringent criteria for picking the hotels aside from the price that should not exceed Php3,000 per room. The hotel should ensure single room occupancy with three full board meals, must have free internet access, and should provide free phone calls within Metro Manila.
Moreover, the hotels should have at least 100 room accommodations.
“Initially we were going for the budget hotels, but we also decided to expand with a limited budget,” he explained.
“We try our best to distribute the hotels. But of course, when we talk of hotels that provide comfort, there are already some which are known for it, so it should not be a surprise if we billeted some OFWs in certain hotels to provide greater comfort for them during the quarantine period.”
He added that they have not seen any anomalies in the way bookings are handled.
“Currently, we have no specific information regarding any anomalies committed by any OWWA employee. I have letters from the PHOA and the Philippine Hotel Sales Marketing Association, with no indication of any such complaints,” he added.
“Nevertheless, we are open and willing to subject ourselves to an internal audit by our parent agency, the DOLE [Department of Labor and Employment].”
Hotels and Facilities for OFW Quarantine
In the Philippines, there are 136 hotels approved for mandatory OFW quarantine and another 121 hotels approved for stringent quarantine as of July 13, 2020. These hotels have been inspected and approved by the Bureau of Quarantine.