OFW groups satisfied with President’s SONA

Maris Federez   •   July 28, 2020   •   369

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

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.

DOLE reports dip in COVID-19 cases among OFWs

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 7, 2020

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection among overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) has dropped, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Tuesday (October 6).

The Labor Department reported there are no new COVID-19 cases recored among OFWs in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Taiwan, and Japan.

New cases were reported in Israel and Qatar but the numbers are lower compared to the tally reported on September 30.

In Germany, the 80 OFWs who were COVID-19 positive were already declared recovered.  Likewise, in Belgium, the seven monitored cases were also confirmed to have recovered.

The good news continues in Spain where 85 recoveries were reported followed by France with eight more.

“The Philippine Overseas Labor Offices’ (POLO) monitoring of OFWs continues round the clock as part of the government’s heightened welfare and assistance program for migrant Filipino workers during the pandemic,” DOLE said.

Meanwhile, DOLE also reported that a new batch of Filipinos, 26 adults and 10 infants, are set for repatriation after qualifying for the Voluntary Repatriation Program of Israel. AAC

280,000 OFWs received cash aid from government—DOLE

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 5, 2020

Almost 280,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have received cash aid, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Under the Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP), DOLE has disbursed P2.853 billion in AKAP funds to both on-site and repatriated OFW beneficiaries as of October 2.

“The one-time financial grant to eligible OFWs whose employment was negatively impacted by COVID-19 was also ongoing in Israel where it has released its third tranche of DOLE-AKAP beneficiaries,” the Labor Department said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the government continues to monitor the number of COVID-19 cases among OFWs across the globe. AAC

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