An official of the Department of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday said that the DFA still has sufficient resources to provide assistance to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In a virtual press conference in Bahrain, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Arriola said that although the pandemic depleted the P1-billion allocation of the DFA for assistance to nationals fund, there is still a "substantial" amount left from the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act to allow them to help affected OFWs.
Arriola added that the DFA was also allocated P200 million for the legal assistance fund.
"We were granted P820 million and there's still a substantial amount that's still with us for COVID response that is in Bayanihan 2... And since Bayanihan 2 will be extended we have the resources to respond to COVID," Arriola said.
"So we have resources to care for our people. They just really have to reach out to our post, or even to DFA through [Facebook]. And anyone who needs help, we are willing to give help," she added.
Arriola, along with Presidential Assistant for Foreign Affairs Robert E.A. Borje, special envoy of President Rodrigo Duterte, is in Bahrain for an official visit until December 31.
Borje said that apart from strengthening ties with the Kingdom of Bahrain, they also aim to repatriate as many migrant Filipinos as possible who are impacted by the ongoing global health crisis.
"We note that there is a need to bring back home Filipinos for many reasons. But of course we want them, first and foremost, to be safe and secure," he said.
"Bahrain has played an important part because it has essentially become a hub of repatriation operations for the Philippines," he added.
For one, Borje said that upon their arrival there on December 29, they were able to repatriate 2,085 migrant Filipinos from Bahrain, Beirut in Lebanon, and Syria.
"When we return home to the Philippines on December 31st, we will be bringing with us around 300 overseas Filipinos from Manama and also from Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
All in all, Borje said, a total of 323,436 OFWs have been repatriated from all over the world through 59 chartered flights and 1,200 commercial flights.
"This is not just a repatriation program, there's a whole slew of services and assistance that has been given to overseas Filipino workers which includes assistance in airfare, welfare assistance, medical assistance and shelters," he said.
"Of course, these services are intensified upon the return of overseas Filipinos to Manila," he added. — BM, GMA News