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Duterte OK'd additional P5-B funding for repatriation of OFWs —Bello

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the release of an additional P5 billion to be used for the repatriation and assistance to OFWs whose jobs were affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III announced the development in a statement on Sunday.

"Dahil po mahal na mahal ni Pangulong Duterte ang ating mga bagong bayani, ibinigay po nya ang kailangan nating dagdag na pondo para sa repatriation at tulong para sa ating mga OFW,” he said.

According to Bello, a huge portion of the said additional funding will be released to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) which was tasked to oversee the repatriation of displaced OFWs.

The OWWA also shoulders the cost of COVID-19 tests for OFWs upon their arrival in the country, as well as their food and accommodation in hotels while waiting for their test results, and transportation to their home provinces upon testing negative, he said.

Since May 15, OWWA has sent almost 130,000 OFWs back to their home provinces, the latest batch of which consisted of 1,185 returning Filipino migrant workers, he added.

Apart from assistance from OWWA, Bello said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) also has been giving a one-time P10,000 or $200 cash aid to OFWs affected by the pandemic both on-site and stranded in the country through its Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program.

DOLE's AKAP program had an initial funding of P2.5 billion, but Bello said the funds will soon be depleted after the department provided assistance to more than 233,000 land-based and sea-based workers amounting to a total of P2.388 billion as of Saturday.

Bello then requested for an additional P2.5 billion funding so that the department could continue to give assistance to around 597,000 OFWs.

With the additional funding approved by the President, more OFWs will benefit from the AKAP program and more migrant workers will be sent back home, he said.

“I have directed our POLOs to accelerate the processing of the assistance so that a greater number of our OFWs will benefit soonest from the aid coming from our government,” he added.  —LBG, GMA News