DOLE seeks P2.5 billion more cash aid for OFWs displaced by pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   July 6, 2020   •   269

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is seeking to get additional budget for its cash assistance program for the growing number of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) affected by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

DOLE said that as of July 4, its overseas offices and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) have recorded a total of 551,606 aid applications from land-based and sea-based workers who are either still in host countries or have already returned to the Philippines.

“The fund released to us is fast depleting. So far, our offices approved the requests of 224,756 OFWs, 128,348 of whom are still locked down or stranded in their countries of work,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in a statement.

The agency had been given P2.5 billion in two tranches to finance its Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program, a one-time cash aid of $200 or P10,000 to help Filipino workers displaced by the pandemic. The budget for the program came from the emergency fund under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

Of the 250,000 expected beneficiaries of the program, around 188,473 have already received the cash aid from DOLE as of July 4 amounting to some P1.927 billion, DOLE said.

Of those who have received the aid, 105,756 are on-site while the remaining beneficiaries have returned to the country, it added.

With additional funding, AKAP will be able to extend emergency assistance to close to half a million OFWs, Bello said.

Bello hopes that President Rodrigo Duterte will grant their request to extend help to more OFWs in need.

OFW groups satisfied with President’s SONA

Maris Federez   •   July 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Several groups of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) have expressed their gratitude to President Rodrigo Duterte on his State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Around 300 Filipinos representing several groups of OFWs from different countries met online and simultaneously watched the President’s SONA.

They said the chief executive did not let them down as he urged Congress “to pass a law establishing the Department of Overseas Filipino solely on addressing the concerns of Filipinos abroad and their families.”

Last March, the lower House passed the creation of the Department of Filipino Overseas and Foreign Deployment. The Senate, on the other hand, is still hearing the bill.

In his SONA, the President reiterated his commitment of support to OFWs.

He called on the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and other agencies to allocate trainings and programs for OFWs.

With this, the United Filipino Global International thanked the president for his concern over them.

“The SONA speech of the president, I think we are very happy kasi alam naman po namin ang kaniyang intention. Ang kaniyang speech ay para talaga tumulong nang totoo na walang halong pamumulitiko,” said Gemma Sotto, chairperson of United Filipino Global International. — (from the report of Asher Cadapan, Jr.) /mbmf

Around 100K OFWs sent home to their provinces

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 21, 2020

The Department of Labor of Employment (DOLE) has reported sending home around 100,000 repatriated Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW).

“The latest batch of 1,691 home-bound OFWs, all of whom tested negative for COVID-19, took their rides back to their respective provinces on Saturday based on data of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration,” DOLE said in a statement.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III has assured that the government will exhaust all means to help OFWs regain jobs they lost abroad due to the pandemic.

The Labor Department also reported over 34,000 OFWs were sent home by the government to their respective regions last May, and more than 61,000 during the succeeding months.

Meanwhile, the number of OFWs affected by the pandemic seeking assistance further has soared to 572,442. —AAC

Bodies of dead OFWs from Saudi Arabia to be flown home starting Friday – DOLE

Robie de Guzman   •   July 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvester Bello III on Wednesday said that the remains of overseas Filipino workers who died in Saudi Arabia will be brought home in batches starting Friday.

Bello said the first batch will be comprised of 44 bodies of deceased OFWs – 19 of whom succumbed to novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while the others died of various causes.

The remains will arrive at the Villamor Airbase via a chartered flight on July 10.

Bello said those who died from COVID-19 will be immediately brought to a crematorium for cremation. Their ashes will then be turned over to their families.

For OFWs who died of natural causes, the labor chief said that their remains may be claimed by their relatives or sent to their respective provinces.

The second batch of OFW remains will arrive on Sunday. A total of 274 remains of OFWs will be flown home from Saudi Arabia.

Bello said the bodies will be repatriated in batches because they cannot bring them home all at once due to stringent protocols and requirements.

“Unahin muna natin yung nakumpleto ang papeles kasi ang hirap ng mga papeles dito. Meron from the Ministry of Labor, meron Ministry of Foreign Affairs nila, ospital kung saan galing yung labi. Ang pinakamahirap yung consent ng employer ang ating mga kababayan,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) assured it will extend aid to the families of deceased workers.

OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said the families of both active and inactive members of the agency will receive financial assistance.

“Bereavement financial assistance at a minimum for inactive OWWA members and then there is an additional death and burial benefit for the active OWWA member in addition to other related benefits like livelihood. But there will be a minimun financial basic assistance for all,” Cacdac said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Mon Jocson/Jaycel Valera)

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