P2.5B more sought for OFW cash aid

The labor department is seeking additional P2.5 billion to finance its cash assistance program for overseas Filipino workers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Sunday said the government needs to service the needs of the increasing number of on-site and repatriated OFWs who are requesting assistance.

As of July 4, Bello said DOLE’s overseas offices and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration recorded a total of 551,606 aid applications from both land-based and sea-based workers who are either still in host countries or have returned to the Philippines.

“The fund released to us is fast depleting. So far, our offices approved the requests of 224,756 OFWs, 128,348 of whom are still locked down or stranded in their countries of work,” the labor chief said.

DOLE was already given P2.5 billion in two tranches to finance the Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP), a one-time emergency cash aid of $200 or P10,000 to help OFWs displaced by the pandemic.

Financing for the program came from the emergency fund under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

With the amount, 250,000 OFWs are expected to benefit from the assistance.

Of the total beneficiaries, 188,473 already received the cash aid as of July 4 amounting to P1.927 billion.

About 56,283 OFWs of the total number of approved requests have yet to receive their assistance.

Of those who have received the aid, 105,756 are on-site while the remaining have returned to the country.

Bello said he is optimistic President Duterte will grant the additional AKAP funding.

“Our OFWs are very dear to our President. Basta para as ating OFWs, ibinibigay nya agad ang tulong,” he said.

With additional funding, Bello added, AKAP will be able to extend emergency assistance to close to half a million OFWs.

“Napakalaking bagay kung higit na marami sa ating mga kababayan ang mabibigyan natin ng tulong,” he also said.