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No more free repatriation flights for OFWs

Mayen Jaymalin - The Philippine Star
No more free repatriation flights for OFWs
An overseas Filipino worker has her temperature taken prior to checking in at the counters of the NAIA-1 departure area yesterday(May 29, 2021).
Krizjohn Rosales, file

MANILA, Philippines — Starting June 1, Filipino workers returning from abroad will have to arrange for their own transport in going back to their home provinces.

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) chief Hans Cacdac said after two years of extending transportation assistance for returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the agency is suspending the program.

Cacdac said OWWA decided to suspend the free transport services since 95 percent of OFWs returning from abroad are no longer availing themselves of the program for the past month.

“This is resulting from the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) pronouncement placing National Capital Region and other areas under Alert Level 1 and public transport has also normalized,” Cacdac said at a virtual press briefing yesterday.

Cacdac, however, clarified that OWWA is still providing free transport for distressed OFWs or those returning through the government’s mass repatriation program.

He further noted that OWWA will extend free accommodation only to partially or unvaccinated OFWs as well as those who have not undergone swab testing and are thus required to undergo facility-based quarantine.

But after they have tested negative, Cacdac said, the OFWs will have to arrange for their own transport.

OWWA extended free accommodation and free transport to all returning OFWs in May 2020 after COVID broke out earlier that year.

Cacdac said OWWA provided transport assistance to over 1.2 million returning OFWs since then.

From May 2020 to the present, Cacdac said the government spent P20 billion on hotel accommodations for returning OFWs, P8 billion for free transport services and less than a billion pesos for food.

Cacdac said the OWWA already received the fund from the Department of Budget and Management and settled the hotel bills of returning OFWs.

All those expenses, he said, were paid from national coffers. The OWWA budget of P18.3 billion remains intact, he said.

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