DOLE targets send off of remaining OFWs in quarantine facilities this week

Marje Pelayo   •   May 29, 2020   •   496

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is doubling its efforts to finally send off all the remaining overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in government quarantine facilities in Metro Manila. 

To date, DOLE has sent around 19,000 OFWs and according to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, hopefully they will be able to send home the rest of them within this week.

Likewise, Bello apologized to all stranded OFWs for their prolonged stay in quarantine facilities. 

To address the matter, DOLE set up a command center at its central office in Manila to facilitate the gathering of all the necessary information regarding arriving OFWs.

Inaasahan natin with this center hindi na po mauulit ang nangyari sa ating mga minamahal sa buhay [We hope that with this center, what happened to our loved ones will not be repeated],” Bello said. 

“They do not deserve this to happen to them. And I repeat I am very sorry to our OFWs,” the Labor Chief added.

The command center is open 24/7 to accept inquiry and to assist all OFWs.

Also, inquiry may be directed to www.commancenter.dole.gov.ph.

Bello reported that there are still around 300,000 stranded OFWs in different parts of the globe, around 62,000 of them have signified their intention for repatriation. 

DOLE expects the arrival of some 42,000 OFWs by the end of May and June. 

Bello promised a faster quarantine process by administering COVID-19 tests to OFWs’ prior to their departure from their country of origin. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

PRC’s decision to stop swab testing affects returning OFWs

Marje Pelayo   •   October 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III admits that the decision of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to stop conducting swab tests due to PhilHealth’s unsettled bills with them have greatly affected the returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

PhilHealth’s outstanding bill with PRC has already amounted to more than P930-million.

Bello said around 4,000 overseas Filipino workers have been stranded in the quarantine hotels they are currently billeted. And the longer they stay in these hotels, the greater the burden on the government that is shouldering the expenses in these hotels.

In the past, the DOLE had been able to send home up to 3,000 OFWs daily after undergoing swab tests and quarantine. To date, it can only send home around 300 OFWs every day.

“They are staying longer. While before they can stay for 3 to four days, now they already stay beyond one week and that’s our problem. There are expenses in taking care of our OFWs. So the sooner the issue of payment is resolved, the better for the OFWs and the better for the finances of our government,” Bello said.

The DOLE chief is hoping that the PhilHealth-PRC issue will be resolved as around 100,000 more OFWs are due to be repatriated before the year ends.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is asking the returning OFWs for their cooperation and patience for the delay of the issuance of result of their swab tests.

PCG Spokesperson Commodore Armando Balilo said they have returned to manually encoding the information of these returning OFWs.

“So pagdating po sa airport, katulad ng dati, imbis na CIF po na pinifill-upan bago po dumating dito na sa website ng red cross, e ngayon po iniinterview namin isa-isa yung mga OFW at kinukunan ng background. At pagkatapos po nun, kinukunan ng swab test, maging yun pong dati na mga specimen po ay nilalagyan na rin ng manual na pangalan at kung kelan na swab di katulad ng dati na bar code,” said Balilo.

This, Balilo said, is why it is taking the process up to four to five days rather than finishing it in just one day following PRC’s decision.

Despite this, Balilo said there are now 12 hospitals that will accept and process the RT-PCR tests of OFWs.

“Magiging capacity po sa isang araw po kaya po ng mga 4,000 hanggang 4,500 po na iti-test,” he said.

Balilo added that the PCG will augment its personnel to lessen the delay due to the manual encoding.

The official also said they are finding ways to return to automation or electronic process encoding of individual information.

“On our part, nagpadala na po kami ng mga tauhan ng mga IT personnel para po magaya natin kung ano man ang sistema na pina-iiral ng Red Cross at sa loob po ng lalong madaling panahon ay maresolba natin itong delay,” Balilo said.

No exemptions, deferment: DOLE tells firms to give workers 13th-month pay

Robie de Guzman   •   October 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Thursday said it will neither defer nor give exemptions to any company from releasing the 13th month pay for their workers even amid the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We will not postpone, we will not defer and we will not give an exemption to the payment of the 13th month pay,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said during a Laging Handa public briefing.

“The law says, pay the workers their 13th month pay on or before December 24. ‘Yan po ang ipatutupad ng Department of Labor,” he added.

Bello said a department order to companies will be released on Friday.

The Labor chief earlier said they are considering a proposal to help micro and small enterprises that were badly hit by the pandemic to give their workers 13th month pay through government subsidy.

Bello said they are seeking approval from the Department of Finance (DOF) for the proposed subsidy or loan program for small firms.

“Nag-request kami kay (Finance) Sec. (Carlos) Dominguez na kung maaari bigyan ng subsidy yung mga employers that are categorized as micro and small enterprises para mabigyan sila ng subsidy o kaya mabigyan sila ng opportunity to make loans sa ating banks, lahat ng mga banks,” he said.

Dominguez, for his part, said his agency has yet to determine the budget for the said proposal.

“I have asked Sec. Bello for the details of his proposal so we can determine if we have the budget cover for it,” the finance chief said in a message to reporters. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Mirasol Abogadil)

DOLE studying employers’ plea to subsidize 13th month pay

Robie de Guzman   •   October 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Wednesday said it is studying the plea of some “distressed” employers to subsidize the cost of the 13th  month pay of their workers.

DOLE said it would deliberate on the proposal after its meeting with labor groups and business owners on Tuesday.

The labor department added that it will coordinate with the Department of Finance to discuss the employers’ suggestion.

DOLE Undersecretary Benjo Benevidez, however, stressed that employers who may avail of the possible subsidy must pass the requirements and prove that their businesses have indeed took a hit in the last three business quarters.

“Kung ikaw ay nagsasabing distressed employer ka, patunayan mon a distressed employer ka… Isa po sa proseso ay magpunta ka sa DOLE at aaprubahan yung kanilang application,” he said.

DOLE met with employers and labor groups to discuss the possible deferment of the 13th month pay due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Under Presidential Decree No. 851, companies are required to give workers their 13th month pay and that this should be released before the end of each year, separate from other year-end bonuses.

The department said labor groups are firm on their position to receive their 13th month pay as provided by the law.

The employers are willing to give workers their 13th month pay but the pandemic has affected their capacity to do so, it added.

DOLE said it will announce its decision on the matter in the coming days. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Mirasol Abogadil)

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