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Financial aid mulled for OFWs returning from Ebola countries

/ 07:10 PM November 25, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration plans to include Filipino workers returning from West African countries stricken with the deadly Ebola as beneficiaries of its Financial Relief Assistance Package, or FRAP, a one-time P10,000 cash aid originally intended for repatriates from strife-torn Libya.

This was disclosed to the Inquirer on Tuesday by OWWA officer-in-charge Josefino Torres, who said the agency’s expanded FRAP coverage “will be finalized” during its next board meeting in December.

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Labor Secretary Rosalinda chairs the OWWA board. Agency administrator Rebecca Calzado, who also sits on the board, is on an official trip to the Middle East, along with Baldoz and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration chief Hans Leo Cacdac.

Torres said in an interview that “the inclusion of OFW repatriates from West Africa in the FRAP coverage will definitely be taken up in the next OWWA board meeting.”

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“We only have a little less than 1,000 active members based in the Ebola-affected countries like Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone. When finalized, each OFW repatriate will also get the one-time emergency cash assistance of P10,000,” he said.

Baldoz earlier explained the grant was part of the government’s repatriation assistance program that aims to cushion the impact of unemployment and income displacement affecting Filipino migrant workers upon their repatriation— either mandatory or voluntary-—to the country.

The OWWA board issued a resolution allowing the inclusion of OFWs who voluntarily left Libya during the period May 29 to July 19 in the FRAP program.

Prior to the directive, only OFWs who availed themselves of the government’s mandatory repatriation program from July 20 onward were entitled to the cash aid.

Before Crisis Alert Level 4, which called for a mandatory evacuation, was raised by the Department of Foreign Affairs, less than 1,000 Filipinos left the north African nation voluntarily.

This prompted both the DFA and the Department of Labor and Employment to repeatedly appeal to migrant workers to come home.

Baldoz directed Calzado to “see to it that the repatriates’ plans after coming home are identified so the DOLE can focus on the necessary assistance to be given.”

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Meanwhile, a copy of an OWWA report furnished this paper showed that on Nov. 21, the agency released P47.04 million in FRAP funds to 4,704 OFW repatriates from Libya.

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