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Overseas Filipino Workers

House panel okays P5-B aid to displaced OFWs

A HOUSE panel has passed a measure that seeks to provide assistance to displaced overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

The House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs approved a substitute bill that provides assistance program with a funding of P5 billion for OFWs who were affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Among the principal authors of the bill are Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas; DIWA party-list Rep. Michael Edgar Aglipay; Aklan Rep. TeodoricoHaresco Jr. and the Makabayan bloc.

The assistance programs include repatriation, medical expenses in the form of vouchers for six months from arrival, migration fees for overstaying Filipinos, legal assistance, and basic necessities, among others.

Following the approval of the substitute bill, Chairman of the committee TUCP party-list Rep. Democrito Mendoza assured that the committee will hold more hearings to check on the plight of OFWs and come up with appropriate measures to address their problems amid the pandemic.

Officials of government agencies mandated to address the needs of OFWs raised their concern on the lack of funding to cover for all repatriates and their families.

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator Hans Cacdac requested additional budget after reporting that OWWA’s expenses have reached almost P500 million, as of May 16, 2020.

Cacdac said OWWA spent for food, accommodation and transportation of repatriates.

Meanwhile, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Administrator Bernard Olalia said concerned government officials should also consider the 40,000 seafarers expected to arrive due to crew change and will eventually undergo quarantine.

Mendoza called on OWWA, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and other concerned agencies to submit the amount of funding they need so all OFWs, including the 200,000 OFWs expected to come home this year, would be attended to. He assured that the House would closely work with the executive branch in finding solutions to the challenges faced by OFWs, such as their displacement and expenses upon repatriation, among others.