THE Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) on Wednesday called on President Rodrigo Duterte to include displaced overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the social amelioration and adjustment programs authorized through the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act. " TUCP party-list Rep. Raymond Mendoza, chairman of the House committee on overseas workers affairs, said at least 169 OFWs have already been hit by coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) and two have already died.
“Their families are sick with worry for their loved ones and have lost their income stream," said Mendoza, TUCP President. The Bayanihan to Heal As One Act will provide a subsidy ranging from P5,000 to P8,000 per month to 18 million low income households through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) expanded 4Ps and through the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Tulong sa Paghahanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged /Displaced Workers (TUPAD) and the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP).
Mendoza said 3,169 OFWs were displaced according to DoLE’s March 23 Job Displacement Monitoring Report.
“We must include OFWs in the Bayanihan Act coverage. Many were displaced due to travel bans and closed borders. Many lost jobs and many OFW breadwinners cannot remit money home," said Mendoza. “OFW remittances account for 10% of Philippine GDP, keeping our economy afloat. They need us now, more than ever. We cannot let them fall through the cracks,” Mendoza added.
Mendoza explained that the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act does not provide for budget augmentation for livelihood and employment assistance to displaced OFWs. He said the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) has already provided P87.4 million to some 8,477 returning OFWs from Hong Kong, Qatar and Kuwait, among others.
"But the DoLE and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) social amelioration and assistance programs for OFWs can also be given priority by the President, as these are imperative to address their needs and that of their families," said Mendoza.
Mendoza urged Duterte to earmark funds for OFWs and increase its allocation of P10,000.00 to P15,000 per month for the entire duration of the Enhanced Community Quarantine period.
In addition, TUCP called on OWWA to intensify its income and livelihood programs for returning OFWs. “The one-time payment of P10,000 is not enough to provide for their needs while the livelihood programs may not match the skills set of the OFW,” Mendoza explained.
TUCP also urged the government to fast-track the repatriation process.
About 1,000 OFWs are still waiting to be repatriated from Hong Kong and Qatar.
“While government is in the process of bringing them home, their families have no income and face days of uncertainties including the threat of being exposed to COVID-19. In Italy alone, we have 600 OFWs pleading to be flown home but the lockdown in Italy does not allow our Department of Foreign Affairs to repatriate them.
Two OFWs who have already succumbed to COVID-19 cannot be given proper burials by their family members,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza also called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to ensure the safety and health of all Filipinos abroad. nIn 2018, the PSA reported 2.3 Million OFWs throughout the world, about 3.8% are not covered with employment contracts.
"We must protect all OFWs, including those who are not documented," said Mendoza.