THE Department of Labor and Employment announced that President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the release of an additional P5 billion for the repatriation and assistance to overseas Filipino workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Dahil po mahal na mahal ni Pangulong Duterte ang ating mga bagong bayani, ibinigay po nya ang kailangan nating dagdag na pondo para sa repatriation at tulong para sa ating mga OFW,” Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said.
Bello added a huge part of the fresh funds will be released to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration which undertakes the repatriation of OFWs displaced on-site due to lockdowns and closure of establishments overseas.
Aside from repatriation assistance, OWWA shoulders the cost of COVID tests of OFWs upon arrival in the country, their food and accommodation in hotels while awaiting test results and the transport to their home provinces once tested negative of the virus.
The agency has so far sent home close to 130,000 OFWs since May 15 via land, sea and air transport. The latest batch of 1,185 OFWs took their rides to their home provinces on Saturday bringing the total number at 129,491 OFWs sent home and given assistance.
Other than the OWWA assistance, DOLE has been extending a one-time P10,000 or $200 cash aid under AKAP to pandemic-affected OFWs, both on-site and those stranded in the country.
The P2.5 billion AKAP funds is almost completely depleted with assistance already provided to more than 233,000 land-based and sea-based workers, with disbursed amount of P2.388 billion as of Aug. 8.
DOLE’s Philippine Overseas Labor Offices and OWWA had processed and approved the applications of 267,584 OFWs under the program meant to benefit only 250,000.
The labor chief had requested a P2.5 billion additional fund to augment the requirements of about 597,469 OFWs seeking government assistance.
He said that with additional funding, more OFWs will benefit from the AKAP program and even more overseas workers will be repatriated and provided with assistance.
“I have directed our POLOs to accelerate the processing of the assistance so that a greater number of our OFWs will benefit soonest from the aid coming from our government,” Bello said.