Defense chief: No more backlogs in returning displaced OFWs back to their provinces

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 8) – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana assured there are no more backlogs in the government’s efforts to receive overseas Filipino workers displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic who wish to return to their home provinces.

In the weekly Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday night, Lorenzana mentioned that around 75,000 displaced OFWs have been sent back to their hometowns.

Sa ating mga overseas Filipinos na dumarating galing sa ibang bansa na wala nang trabaho, sa ngayon ay meron tayong naibalik sa mga probinsiya na 75,895. So wala na tayong backlog ngayon," said Lorenzana during the briefing which aired early Wednesday morning.

[Translation: For the overseas Filipinos who came from other countries and have lost their jobs, around 75,805 of them have been transported back to their provinces. So, we don’t have a backlog now.]

Lorenzana added the government will repatriate around 5,000 Filipinos in Sabah, Malaysia for the next two weeks.

The first batch of 395 repatriated Filipinos returned to the country, the Defense Secretary reported.

As of July 4, the Department of Labor and Employment and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration recorded over 551,000 applications for assistance from land-based and sea-based workers.

The Labor Department is seeking more funds to for its program Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP), which provides OFWs displaced by the pandemic an emergency cash aid of $200 or ₱10,000 to help them cope with the crisis.

The government had given DOLE ₱2.5 billion for the AKAP program, that will be distributed to qualified beneficiaries in two tranches.

Over 188,000 out of the 250,000 expected beneficiaries of the program have already received financial assistance from DOLE as of July 4, amounting to some ₱1.927 billion.