OFWs displaced by pandemic to get P10,000 in aid
MANILA, Philippines — Repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were displaced by the new coronavirus pandemic will each receive P10,000 in government assistance upon their arrival in Manila.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III gave the order on Wednesday even as he acknowledged bureaucratic delays in handing out the cash aid to OFWs since the start of the lockdown nearly eight months ago.
A total of 237,363 OFWs have been repatriated since the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
In October alone, it said, 37,095 were brought home. The DFA said it expected more than 107,000 Filipinos to be flown to Manila by year-end.
Currently, repatriated OFWs have to apply for the cash assistance and wait for their applications to be processed and approved. “Why do we have to wait for the OFWs to apply? We know they were displaced because of COVID-19 and therefore they deserve the financial assistance,” Bello said in an online news briefing.
“Once they arrive, the financial assistance given by the President for them should be ready. When they arrive at the airport, give them the assistance. Let us not wait for them to apply since we know they are OFWs,” he said.
Bello met with his senior officials at the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered on Monday that affected workers who still had not received cash aid from the government should be able to get them by Christmas.
Under the Bayanihan 1 emergency measure, the DOLE rolled out three financial assistance programs for workers in formal and informal sectors, and OFWs. OFWs who were displaced by the pandemic can avail themselves of a onetime assistance of $200, or P10,000.
Bello said the Dole had already distributed a total P3.5 billion to about 350,000 OFWs under the so-called Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong program, with an additional P3 billion under the Bayanihan 2 law.
Documents on job loss The repatriated OFW can still submit documents to show job loss due to the pandemic, but Bello said the Dole would not wait for these if it already had the OFW’s records.
“So long as we have proof that they are OFWs and they were displaced, we will give them assistance,” he said. Of the total number of repatriated Filipino workers, 77,326 (32.58 percent) were sea-based while 160,037 (67.42 percent) were land-based, the DFA said.
Last month’s arrivals came from the Middle East (31,849 or 85.86 percent), Asia and the Pacific (2,716 or 7.32 percent), Europe (2,406 or 6.49 percent), Africa (92 or 0.25 percent) and the Americas (32 or 0.09 percent).
“October’s repatriations were marked by several ‘firsts’—the mass repatriation of more than 500 Agrostudies students from Israel, the safe return of 92 overseas Filipino workers from Benghazi, Libya, and the first-ever repatriation by sea from Indonesia of 40 Filipino fishermen via the BRP Tubbataha,” the DFA said in a statement.
The department also chartered three flights from Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to bring home 920 OFWs, including those with chronic medical conditions. It also facilitated several medical repatriations from Australia, Brazil, French Polynesia, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Norway, Oman, Spain and the United States.
Bello said OFWs who were still waiting for cash aid should get the money before the end of November. Fast-tracking distribution He directed his senior officials to fast-track the handing out of assistance to the formal sector workers under the so-called COVID Adjustment Measures Program and to the informal sector workers under the so-called Tulong Panghanap Buhay Para sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (Tupad).
The Dole was allocated an additional P13 billion for its three workers’ assistance programs under the Bayanihan 2 law.
Using the additional funds, the Dole said its target beneficiaries of the P5,000 cash support were some 993,000 affected workers in private establishments. It would give two-week emergency employment to some 863,000 informal sector workers under the prevailing minimum wage in their regions.
In the same news briefing, Bello said the additional funds for Tupad would be used to provide emergency jobs in provinces hard-hit by Supertyphoon “Rolly.” Catanduanes and Albay can hire at least 5,000 informal sector workers each for clean-up operations.
Asked if the Bayanihan 2 law was only meant for COVID-19-affected workers, Bello said “any emergency situation will also justify our giving emergency work to our informal workers.”
—With a report from Tina G. Santos
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