Covid-19: Philippine President Duterte approves additional P5-B fund to help Filipino expats

Kirstin Bernabe-Santos/Dubai
Filed on August 9, 2020
Abu Dhabi, Philippine President Duterte, Filipino expats

(Photo: Reuters)

A huge part of the fund will go to the financial assistance programme for OFWs.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the release of an additional P5-billion fund to help Filipino expats across the world weather the Covid-19 crisis.  

The country's labour secretary, Silvestre Bello III, on Sunday said a huge part of this fund will go to the Department of Labour and Employment's AKAP programme - the one-time Dh730 cash aid extended to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who lost their livelihood to the pandemic.

Across the world, nearly 600,000 OFWs have been seeking government assistance, but the initial DOLE AKAP fund was meant only for 250,000. In Dubai and the Northern Emirates alone, the mission had received over 80,000 cash aid applications, but allocations were only for 22,000.

Bello had requested an additional P2.5 billion for the programme in July. Now that fresh funds had been approved, more OFWs are expected to receive the Dh730 aid, the labour secretary said.

"I have directed our Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (Polo) to accelerate the processing of the assistance so that a greater number of our OFWs will benefit soonest from the aid coming from our government," he added.

The Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Consulate-General in Dubai said they are awaiting guidelines on how the budget will be disbursed.

"The overseas Filipino communities around the world welcome this development as it highlights the Philippine government's commitment to assist all Filipinos in a crisis such as this pandemic. The embassy and the consulate await further guidelines and instructions from the Department of Foreign Affairs and DOLE in this regard," the missions said in a joint statement.

The Polo and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) had processed and approved the applications of 267,584 OFWs under the financial assistance programme.

"The initial P2.5-billion AKAP fund is almost completely depleted with assistance already provided to more than 233,000 land-based and sea-based workers, with disbursed amount of P2.388 billion as of August 8," the labour department said.

Expats' benefits

Another part of the P5-billion fund will be released for the repatriation of OFWs who had been displaced because of lockdowns and closure of establishments around the world, Bello said.

Aside from sponsoring flights, OWWA shoulders the cost of expats' Covid tests upon their arrival in the country, as well as their food and accommodation in hotels while awaiting test results. It also pays for their transport to provinces, once they tested negative for the virus.

The agency has so far sent home close to 130,000 OFWs since May 15 via land, sea and air transport.

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