DBM grants ₱1B in financial aid for OFWs, says Bello

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 14) — The Department of Budget and Management has granted ₱1 billion as financial assistance for overseas Filipino workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said on Thursday.

"[A]ng hinihingi naming dagdag-pondo ay ₱2.5 billion, pero ang pinadala lang is ₱1 billion," Bello said in a Laging Handa virtual press briefing. "We will live with that. Hangga't meron pa, ibibigay natin yan sa mga OFW kasi kailangang-kailangan nila yan."

[Translation: We requested for additional funds worth ₱2.5 billion, but only ₱1 billion was sent to us. As long as there are still funds, we will give that (cash aid) to OFWs because they badly need it.]

Bello said the DBM initially gave the Department of Labor and Employment ₱1.5 billion to finance the cash assistance for OFWs, as it had previously estimated that only about 150,000 workers abroad will avail of the government aid.

However, the department's estimate fell short as up to 411,000 overseas workers have applied for the Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program as of Wednesday, according to the labor chief.

Of the total number of applications, around 100,000 have already been approved, Bello added.

Under the program, displaced land-based and sea-based workers will be provided a one-time cash assistance worth ₱10,000 or $200, or the equivalent amount in their host countries.

DOLE will also provide livelihood assistance to OFWs in line with its post-COVID-19 recovery plan, Bello said.

"We will focus on yung ating OFWs na nakauwi at yung mga hindi nakaalis," he explained. "Bibigyan namin sila ng livelihood project. Mamili sila ng mga negosyo. Halimbawa, mag-put up sila ng karinderya, mag-put up ng sari-sari store, magtanim ng ganito, magtanim ng ganon."

[Translation: We will focus on our OFWs who were able to return to the country and those who weren't able to leave. We will give them livelihood projects. They shall choose which business [to set up.] For example, they can set up a carinderia, a sari-sari store, or plant anything.]

The department will provide the OFWs ₱20,000 for livelihood assistance, said Bello. Should they need a bigger amount, they may secure a loan from the DOLE without interest, he added.