An additional budget for the repatriation of at least 100,000 overseas Filipino workers who lost jobs due to COVID-19 pandemic will be provided under the Bayanihan 2 bill, House Assistant Majority Leader Mike Defensor said Friday.
Defensor issued the statement two days after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced that the DFA will realign what remains of its P2.5 billion capital outlay fund for 2020 to finance the repatriation of OFWs.
“We can include the augmentation in the proposed Bayanihan 2 or We Recover as One law, which we hope to approve together with the Senate after we open our second regular session on Monday,” Defensor, chairperson of the House committee on public accounts, said.
Congress' second regular session will open on Monday, July 27, ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte's fifth State of the Nation Address.
Locsin said at least 96,000 OFWs have been repatriated so far and he can see repatriation efforts going on pending vaccine against COVID-19.
“When this COVID-19 broke out, the President asked me, do you need more money? [I answered] no, we will work with what we have. We are canceling all our repairs, retrofitting, capital outlay [spending] in order to use all our money to bring our people home because the President is the President of OFWs,” Locsin said.
“We will continue the repatriation efforts for as long as there are Filipinos who want to come home,” he added.
Prior to Locsin’s announcement, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Arriola said that the DFA only has P232 million left for repatriation of OFWs—an amount that will only be enough until August.
Labor department’s National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO) officer-in-charge and Director Roel Martin, for his part, assured the public that livelihood, employment training assistance for returning OFWs affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will be granted to both members and non-members of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.
“The OWWA members will have an advantage, but the government assistance will also be granted to undocumented or irregular OFWs,” Martin said during Laging Handa briefing.
He said OFWs who lost jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic can reach out to the following contact numbers:
Telephone Nos. (+632) 8527-6184
Telefax No. (+632) 8526-2392
—AOL, GMA News