DOLE: OFWs needing aid top 500,000
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said as of yesterday, the number of displaced OFWs who have applied for cash assistance under the DOLE’s Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program has reached 508,527.
KJ Rosales, file

DOLE: OFWs needing aid top 500,000

Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - June 15, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Over half a million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 pandemic are seeking financial aid, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reported.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said as of yesterday, the number of displaced OFWs who have applied for cash assistance under the DOLE’s Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program has reached 508,527.

Bello said that of the total number of applicants, DOLE has so far extended assistance to 189,153 OFWs.

“DOLE has disbursed some P1.6 billion for the implementation of the AKAP program,” he noted.

Under the program DOLE provides one-time cash assistance of $200 – or P10,000 – to both land- and sea-based OFWs who have lost their jobs or were placed under a “no work no pay” scheme as a result of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Bello said DOLE will submit to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) all the information they gather from their newly activated tracking system for OFWs returning to the country.

DOLE created the OFW Assistance Information System (OASIS) to facilitate an orderly repatriation of the huge number of OFWs who have been affected by the pandemic and opting to go back home.

DOLE consultant Marianito Roque said the tracking system would allow DOLE to generate data as to how many OFWs were rendered jobless, or are under the no work no pay policy, and gives the labor agency an idea on the appropriate assistance to be provided.

Roque said DOLE will also be able to identify the skills of the returning workers and refer them to new employment or provide them alternative livelihood if they want to.

“So in a week or two, when the system becomes fully operational, we can expect better handling of our returning OFWs,” he explained.

Bello urged all OFWs bound for home to register online with OASIS through oasis.owwa.gov.ph.

Thousands repatriated

Meanwhile, a total of 41,867 Filipino nationals have returned to the country since the repatriation flight from Wuhan, China in February due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday.

“As of yesterday, the DFA has facilitated the safe return to Manila of 41,867 Filipino nationals, of which over 24,000 are seafarers and over 17,500 land-based overseas Filipino workers,” the DFA said.

The repatriation last week wrapped up with the arrival of 21 OFWs from Bahrain.

During the weekend, the DFA facilitated the return of 958 Filipinos, which added to the over 40,000 Filipinos repatriated.

Some 390 OFWs repatriated from Laos and Norway arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Saturday.

The DFA said the 125 land-based OFWs from Laos and 265 sea-based OFWs from Norway had been eagerly waiting to return back home for months.

Upon arrival, the OFWs underwent Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing, thorough documentation screening, as well as briefing on current safety protocols prescribed by the IATF.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development also made psycho-social counselling available to the OFWs. They will be temporarily housed at Bureau of Quarantine-approved facilities for mandatory quarantine while they await the results of their RT-PCR test.

Meanwhile, the DFA also reported yesterday 22 new confirmed COVID-19 cases among Filipinos abroad, with nine new fatalities. Citing reports from Philippine Foreign Service Posts, the department said six Filipinos in Europe and the Middle East have recovered from the virus.

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