More than 600,000 OFWs seek DOLE assistance amid pandemic
MANILA, Philippines — The number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) seeking assistance due to the effects of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has surged to more than 600,000, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Data from the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) showed that as of Aug. 15, a total of 604,403 on-site and repatriated OFWs had sought cash aid from the DOLE.
The labor department said close to half of the requests, or 272,000, had been approved.
Of those seeking assistance, 349,977 are on-site workers or those displaced and stranded overseas, while 254,426 are repatriated land-based and sea-based OFWs.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, citing reports from its foreign posts and the OWWA, explained that the increasing volume of requests for assistance by OFWs is being met by the timely release of additional repatriation fund for the OWWA.
Last week, Bello said President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the release of P5 billion in additional funds for the repatriation and assistance to OFWs, a huge portion of which went to the OWWA.
The DOLE provides a one-time $200 or P10,000 assistance under Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong program to migrant workers affected by the pandemic with total funding of P2.5 billion meant to benefit 250,000 OFWs.
The budget is almost fully depleted with the disbursement of P2.436 billion to 237,778 OFW beneficiaries as of Saturday, the DOLE said.
Meanwhile, Bello also reported that a total of 146,658 returning OFWs have been transported to their home provinces as of Aug. 15.
He said the latest batch of 3,081 repatriated workers took their rides home after being tested negative of the virus. A separate batch of 2,743 OFWs were bused to the provinces earlier on Friday.
Aside from transportation, the OFWs were provided hotel accommodations and other assistance while awaiting result of their COVID-19 tests.
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