DOLE wants additional P1.5B to finance program for OFWs


    THE Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will ask the government for an additional P1 billion to P1.5 billion to augment the Abot-Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) subsidy program for overseas Filipino workers, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said yesterday.

    Bello, during the Laging Handa network briefing, said AKAP still has some pending 500,000 applications.

    Under the program, OFWs affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic can avail of a $200 cash aid equivalent to P10,000.

    The DOLE was initially allocated P1.5 billion to provide assistance to 150,000 OFWs. It was augmented by another P1 billion to accommodate more.

    He said P1.7 billion of the total P2.5 billion budget had been released to some 170,000 FWs.

    He said the remaining P800 million budget would not be enough to accommodate the close to half a million OFWs still seeking aid.

    “Maybe by next week we will ask ad additional budgetary allocation for the remaining OFWs. We will probably ask for an additional P1 billion o P1.5 billion because we need to provide them with aid since they have already been contributing to our economy for the past years,” he said.

    Aside from the cash aid, the government is also helping repatriate OFWS and expect 19,591 more people to return to the country soon. He said there are 88,346 stranded OFWs around the world who want to be return to the country.

    Tthe government is also helping locally stranded individuals (LSIs) return to their provinces.

    Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Assistant Secretary and Hatid Tulong Program head Joseph Encabo said some 53,000 LSIs had been helped by government to return to their homes.

    Encabo said 65 SLIs were sent home yesterday to Mindanao. He said there are still some 13,000 LSIs in Luzon waiting for their schedules to return to the Visayas and Mindanao.

    The Employees’ Compensation Commission (ECC) yesterday reminded frontliners to avail of the Employees’ Compensation (EC) Program.

    “In the event that an employee acquires the virus because of work or working environment, it can be compensable under the EC Program provided that it was obtained by the employee in the performance of his employment,” said ECC Executive Director Stella Banawis.

    ECC said the frontline workers include doctors, nurses, uniformed personnel, hospital support staff, pharmacists, employees of food industries, supermarket personnel, and security guards.

    Under the program, beneficiaries can avail of the daily sickness benefit (temporary total disability) and medical benefits while their family can claim death with funeral benefits if the worker dies due to COVID-19.

    Daily sickness benefits given to beneficiaries stand at P480 up to a maximum of 240 days for private sector employees and a daily income benefit of P200 or P340 if a worker opts to avail of sickness benefit under the GSIS Law for government employees.

    Meanwhile, over 7,000 OFWs have registered with the online repatriation tracking system of the Labor Department.

    Last June 10, the DOLE launched the program to provide an online platform where returning OFWS affected by the COVID-19 pandemic can register and provide the Philippine government with vital data and information necessary to ensure their orderly and well-coordinated repatriation. – With Gerard Naval