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.
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