Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said that the government expects around 300,000 Overseas Filipino Workers going home in the next months as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) affects their livelihood abroad.
In The Filipino Times’ live streaming on Facebook titled ‘TFT Usapang OFW: Tulong at Serbisyo para sa bawat OFW mula kay Pangulong Duterte’, the spokesperson said that about 100,000 OFWs have already come home since the onset of the pandemic, and that they expect the total number to go as high as 300,000 in the coming months.
He added that to assist affected Filipino expats, the government has launched a number initiative to them cushion the blow of the crisis on them.
Among the programs he cited include the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)-AKAP program, the onetime cash assistance worth PHP10,000 given to those who have lost their jobs, or are under no-work-no-pay status.
“‘Yong AKAP program natin [ay para sa] lahat ng mga nawalan ng trabaho. Binibigyan natin [sila] ng kahit paano ay maliit na ayuda,” he said.
Recently, President Duterte has approved an additional Php5 billion budget to provide assistance for OFWs who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III confirmed the announced, stating that the money will be used for repatriation, of which a huge part of the funds will be allocated for the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to help send OFWs home.
The spokesperson also said that Duterte has also ordered Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to provide returning OFWs training so they can have the capacity to attain their own source of livelihood in the country.
Roque also cited the scholarships being provided by the President to OFWs who want to return to school through the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
“Madami din tayong pinapautang galing sa DOLE para sa mga dating OFW para sila ay makapagnegosyo,
In a separate webinar with The Filipino Times, Bello said that DOLE has various reintegration programs that will help repatriated Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), including the PHP20,000 cash assistance in line with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA)’s social preparation programs for livelihood projects or community-based income-generating projects.
He stressed that this program has already helped various repatriated Filipinos to start their own eatery or catering service.
In addition, Bello said DOLE has also signed a memorandum of agreement with the Department of Education (DepEd) to initiate the Sa ‘Pinas Ikaw ang Ma’am/Sir (SPIMS) program. In this project, DepEd will prioritize OFW teachers who have returned or have been repatriated back to the Philippines in the hiring process.
Documented OFWs will also be prioritized by OWWA in their education programs that provide scholarships for children of displaced OFWs.
Bello also confirmed the availability of BPO jobs for repatriated OFWs, stating that the agency, together with the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP), are fulfilling the increasing demand for manpower particularly for those with backgrounds in information technology and healthcare.
In addition, the department has also coordinated with construction companies to hire displaced OFWs in the ‘Build, Build, Build,’ program of President Rodrigo Duterte. “Nakiusap ako sa mga construction leaders not to mechanize their operations, but to instead manualize it to provide jobs for more OFWs. Pumapayag naman sila,” he added.
Repatriated OFWs who have a background in fishing, Bello added, can also be provided non-motorized fiberglass boats for livelihood.
“Hindi bibitaw ang Presidente sa mga OFW, lalo ngayon na nangangailangan sila,” underscored the spokesperson.