Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Wednesday said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) projects a reduction of up to 40% in remittances of overseas Filipino workers due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Based on the number of displaced OFWs, we are expecting a reduction by around 30 to 40%... considering the number of repatriations and considering the number of [job] displacement of OFWs while they are there in their places of deployment," Bello said in a Senate hearing.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said this loss would be equivalent to at least $10 billion, considering that the OFW remittances last year was $33.5 billion.
According to Bello, there are over 345,000 OFWs displaced by the pandemic across the globe but not all of them intend to return to the Philippines.
He said 191,000 opted to stay abroad while 59,000 are already repatriated.
'Additional fund for cash assistance'
Bello said the DOLE needs an additional budget to extend P10,000 cash assistance to more OFWs displaced by COVID-19.
The department's Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program initially had a P1.5 billion budget and received P1 billion more last month.
However, around 500,000 affected migrant workers have applied for the program—double the current target beneficiary of 250,000.
"Umaabot ang applicants to more than 500,000, so talagang kulang ang aming hiningi. We asked for additional budget, binigyan kami ng additional P1 billion... Ang nag-aapply 500,000 plus, so maybe we will be asking for more," Bello said.
"The OFWs deserve this cash assistance," he added
Around P1.8 billion of AKAP's current P2.5 billion budget have already been distributed to beneficiaries in the Philippines and abroad, according to the DOLE chief. — BM, GMA News