200,000 OFWs staying put in host states despite layoff

AROUND 200,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) opted to stay in their host country even after they were temporarily or permanently displaced because of the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

During an online press briefing on Tuesday, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said the 200,000 were among the 341,000 OFWs whom it earlier said were homebound this year.

But to his surprise, Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said 60 percent of the OFWs decided to wait out the Covid-19 crisis in their host countries instead.

“Almost 200,000 of them do not want to come home. They’d rather stay there, especially those coming from America and from Europe—Rome, Madrid, United Kingdom,” Bello said.

Temporary trend

Institute for Migration and Development Issues (IMDI) Executive Director Jeremaiah M. Opiniano said the decision of OFWs to remain in their host countries may be temporary.

He said the Covid-19 affected OFWs may have benefited from the stimulus funds, unemployment insurance and other forms of financial assistance from their host government.

The migration analyst said some may have also resorted to using their savings for the next few months so they could stay in their host countries.

“These may keep these OFWs at bay for the meantime while awaiting for situations abroad to get better,” Opiniano told BusinessMirror in e-mail.

Bello said they preparing for the mass repatriation of the OFWs by requesting for an additional budget for their Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (Akap).

Under Akap, Covid-affected OFWs are given a P10,000 cash aid program. Currently, the P2.5-billion program has benefited 145,000 OFWs.

Ongoing repatriation

Of over 300,000 Covid-affected OFWs, 42,000 are seeking to be repatriated by the government, according to Bello.

However, he pointed out that 16,679 of the applicants are expected to arrive in the country this month after getting the necessary exit visa and clearances from their host countries.

“By this time, over 1,000 of them have already arrived,” Bello said.

The Labor chief is now coordinating with the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Department of Transportation (DOTr)  to make sure the repatriated OFWs will have sufficient accommodation and transportation upon their arrival.

He also sought the assistance of chief implementer of the government’s national policy on Covid-19 Carlito Galvez for the prompt release of the reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests results of the repatriates.

“I don’t want, again, the incident of the 24,000 OFW, who were stranded. I really pitied those OFWs,” Bello said, referring to the thousands of repatriates who ended up staying in quarantine facilities for several weeks, far beyond the 14-day mandatory period, because of delays in the conduct of their tests, the processing of results, and the release of final clearances so they can go home to the provinces.

During the weekend, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) was able to to send home all of the 24,000 OFWs who were quarantined in Metro Manila and Batangas for weeks.

Image Credits: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

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