Duterte urged to include OFWs in SAP

Rodrigo Duterte

PRESIDENT Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte on Saturday was urged to include displaced overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the social amelioration and adjustment programs under the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act following the extension until April 30, 2020 of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon.

Former ACTS-OFW Coalition of Organizations party-list Rep. Aniceto Bertiz III questioned the exclusion of distressed OFWs to the economic relief designed to defeat the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19).

“In light of the extended enhanced community quarantine in Luzon, I am appealing to the government to also give immediate and equal attention to our overseas Filipino workers and their families during this time of global public health emergency,” said Bertiz, ACTS-OFW Coalition of Organizations chairperson.

Bertiz said “OFWs and their families have also to bear the heavy brunt of this coronavirus pandemic gripping the whole world, including the Philippines.”

“Like the rest of our people, they too are scared, hungry and insecure of their own survival, including a possible loss of jobs and livelihood,” added Bertiz.

“While national efforts to repatriate stranded OFWs abroad, provide food, transportation and accommodation for those going home or under quarantine or treatment, and extend financial assistance to returning OFWs are all commendable, everyday our OFWs are growing anxious not only of their own safety but also of their own families here,” Bertiz explained.

For one, Bertiz said the government should reconsider its decision to exclude the respective families of OFWs from its list of beneficiaries qualified to avail for cash subsidy program. “Like many of us, they are also suffering due to the protracted lockdown.

Our Filipino workers have long been risking their lives and safety abroad so that they can continue to support their families and loved ones here.  During this pandemic, we now cannot leave them out of the government cash subsidy just because they choose to work and sacrifice abroad,” Bertiz pointed out.

“Our concerned government agencies should also need to extend immediate assistance and support to the families of OFWs who died abroad due to the virus, withstanding cultural requirements and health restrictions.  To date, at least 569 Filipinos have been infected, 65 of whom so far have died and 346 others are undergoing treatment,” he explained.

“Most of our OFWs are working in high risk areas or workplaces, many of them are health care workers and essential services providers, household service workers included, who are more exposed to virus infection but do not have easy and ready access to adequate medical protection and treatment abroad, especially those in the COVID-19 hot zone countries,” Bertiz stressed.

Bertiz also appealed to the licensed local recruitment agencies and their foreign counterparts to check and monitor the condition of their deployed workers and find ways and means to assist them and their families, especially those who were displaced from their work.

“As our government is working double time to stem the scourge of the deadly disease, the private sector should also pitch in their help to ensure that our OFWs and their families are protected and assisted at all times, especially during this time of crisis,” said Bertiz.