President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has approved the release of additional PHP5 billion for the repatriation and assistance to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) announced on Sunday.
DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said big portion of the fresh funds will be released to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) which undertakes the repatriation of displaced Filipinos due to lockdowns and closure of establishments overseas.
“Because the President love our new modern-day heroes, he is providing them the additional funds for the repatriation and assistance to our OFWs,” he said in a statement.
Aside from repatriation assistance, the OWWA also shoulders the cost of Covid-19 tests of OFWs upon arrival in the country, their food and accommodation in hotels while awaiting the test results.
It also provides transportation assistance to the OFWs back to their home provinces via land, sea, and air once tested negative of the virus.
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 since May 15.
For its part, the DOLE has been providing a one-time USD200 (PHP10,000) cash aid under Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) to OFWS both on-site and those stranded in the country affected by the pandemic.
It reported that the PHP2.5 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 PHP2.388 billion as of August 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.
Bello had requested a PHP2.5 billion additional fund to augment the requirements of about 597,469 OFWs seeking government assistance.
He added that with additional funding, more OFWs will benefit from the AKAP program and even more overseas workers will be repatriated.
“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,” he said. (PNA)