DOLE seeks ₱2.5 billion more for OFWs displaced by pandemic

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 5) — The Department of Labor and Employment hopes to acquire billions of pesos more in funding to provide assistance to the growing number of overseas Filipino workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of July 4, the agency's overseas offices along with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration have recorded over 551,000 applications for assistance from land-based and sea-based workers, said DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III. These workers are either still in their respective 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,” he said.

The government had given DOLE ₱2.5 billion in two tranches to fund its program Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong, or AKAP, which provides OFWs displaced by the pandemic an emergency cash aid of $200 or ₱10,000 to help them cope with the crisis.

Over 188,000 out of the 250,000 expected beneficiaries of the program have already received financial assistance from DOLE as of Saturday. This amounts to some ₱1.927 billion, the agency said.

Of the workers who have already gotten aid, more than 105,000 workers are on site, while the rest have already made their way back to the Philippines.

Meanwhile, the agency still has to pay out financial aid to over 56,000 beneficiaries, it added.

Provided additional funding, AKAP will be able to assist to nearly half a million OFWs provided additional funding, Bello added.

The Labor chief likewise expressed optimism about President Rodrigo Duterte granting the additional funding for AKAP, saying OFWs are dear to him and that he will immediately extend help to them.