200k OFWs return home

More than 200,000 overseas Filipino workers who have returned to the country due to the pandemic had been transported back to their home provinces, the labor department reported on Thursday.

In a report to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration said over 40,000 OFWs tested negative for Covid-19 were sent to their provinces this month alone, including the latest batch of 1,440 OFWs who were transported on September 23.

This brings to 218,205 the total number of OFWs who were assisted by the labor department since it has started sending home OFWs en masse in May.

The OFW returnees were provided with accommodation, food, transportation, and COVID testing upon their arrival in the country.

To help OFWs financially, DOLE has also been extending a one-time P10,000 or $200 cash aid under the Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program to OFWs whose incomes were affected by the pandemic, both on-site and those stranded in the country.

Bello said more OFWs will benefit from the AKAP program following President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of Bayanihan to Recover as One or Bayanihan 2 law.

The labor chief said there are alternative overseas job markets for displaced OFWs, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has resumed accepting and processing work visas; Qatar, which has abolished the ‘kafala’ system that requires migrant workers to get permission from their employers should they decide to change jobs; and the Kingdom of Bahrain, which has renewed the recruitment of household service workers.

Other job markets available for Filipino workers, he added, are China, Japan, Czech Republic, and Taiwan.