The Budget Department has provided the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) another P1 billion for its cash assistance program for overseas Filipino workers affected by the COVID-19 crisis, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Thursday.
The additional funds will augment the original P1.5 billion allocation for the Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program, Bello said at the Laging Handa briefing.
The amount falls short of the additional P2.5 billion requested by DOLE, but Bello said they will "live with it for the meantime."
"We will live with that, hangga't meron pa, ibibigay natin sa mga OFW, kasi kailangang kailangan nila yan," he said at the livestreamed briefing.
He said the department initially estimated that 150,000 OFWs will apply for AKAP, in which qualified land- and sea-based workers will get a one-time cash aid of P10,000. He admitted that the estimate may have been low as some 411,000 OFWs have applied as of Wednesday.
Of the 411,000 applications, more than 100,000 were approved, he said.
He also denied that the department has stopped accepting applications for the AKAP program.
"Fake news 'yan, tuloy-tuloy pa ang pagtanggap namin ng application for cash assistance," he said.
AKAP is one of the labor department's initiatives for workers during the COVID-19 crisis. The DOLE rolled out last March a P1.3-billion financial assistance program for workers temporarily displaced by the Luzon-wide quarantine and a P180-million emergency employment program for informal sector workers.
The department has since realigned some P1.5 billion of its 2020 budget to be able to give 300,000 more displaced formal sector workers a one-time cash assistance of P5,000. — RSJ, GMA News