THE Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) yesterday said it needs an additional P2.5 billion budget for its Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) for OFWs program so it could extend its cash assistance to more overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who have been displaced by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in a statement: “We are seeking an additional P2.5 billion to finance our cash assistance program for OFWs affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as the fund released to us is fast depleting.”
“The government needs to service the needs of the increasing number of on-site and repatriated OFWs who are requesting assistance,” Bello said.
DOLE-AKAP is a one-time P10,000 or $200 cash assistance to OFWs, whether in the Philippines or on-site, affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Initially, the DOLE was allocated P1.5 billion, followed by another P1 billion to bring their total budget for AKAP to P2.5 billion.
The labor chief said the additional budget is necessary because the number of applicants for the AKAP program has ballooned to 551,606.
They are composed of both land-based and sea-based OFWs, who are either still in host countries or have returned to the Philippines.
Of the total applicants, he said they have already approved the requests of 244,756 OFWs.
As of July 4, Bello said a total of 188,473 OFW applicants have already been approved and have received the cash aid.
On the other hand, he said that about 56,283 OFWs have been declared qualified for the cash assistance, but have yet to receive them.
“With an (additional) amount, 250,000 OFWs more are expected to benefit from the assistance,” said Bello.