Faster cash aid for COVID-19 affected farmers, OFWs sought

A House leader on Friday urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) to expedite the delivery of financial aid to farmers and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affected by coronavirus (COVID)-19 pandemic.

House Deputy Speaker and 1-Pacman party-list Rep. Mikee Romero, president of the 54-strong Party-list Coalition Foundation Inc.

(PCFI), said “only a small fraction of our farmers and displaced OFWs have received assistance” based on the DA and DOLE reports submitted to Malacañang last week.

Romero said the agriculture department has P3 billion for target beneficiary-farmers numbering 591,246.

“These are those tilling one hectare or less in 34 provinces who are to get P5,000 each,” he added.

However, Romero pointed out that based on the DA’s own report, as of April 14, only 52,043 or 8.8 percent have actually received aid amounting to P645 million.

But the House leader noted a statement of Agriculture Secretary William Dar that as of Wednesday, the number of recipients has already increased to 22 percent.

He said in the case of displaced OFWs, the DoLE placed the number at 135,720, of whom 86,054 have applied for financial assistance.

Of these applications, only 3,245 have been approved as of April 16 and were “being processed for payment,” he said, quoting the DoLE.

He added that the labor department has P1.5 billion for dislocated OFWs.

Romero urged workers who lost their jobs abroad due to the Covid-19 pandemic and forced to fly home to apply for aid.

He said in the case of displaced workers here, the DoLE has helped a much larger number - 416,202 out of a target of 557,924.

It has released P1.6 billion out of the P2.6 billion intended for these workers, he said.