THE Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is asking for an additional P2.5 billion budget for its cash aid for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), saying the fund released to them was already “fast depleting.”
In a statement on Sunday, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said he hopes President Duterte will grant the additional funding for Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program, adding that the government has to service the needs of the increasing number of on-site and repatriated OFWs who are seeking assistance.
Should the additional funding be granted to DOLE, Bello said they will be able to extend the cash aid to about half a million OFWs.
“The fund released to us is fast depleting. So far, our offices approved the requests of 224,756 OFWs, 128,348 of whom are still locked down or stranded in their countries of work,” Bello said.
“Napakalaking bagay kung higit na marami sa ating mga kababayan ang mabibigyan natin ng tulong [It would mean so much if many more of our countrymen can be extended help],” he added.
Under the program, a one-time emergency cash aid of $200 or P10,000 is given to OFWs displaced by the pandemic.
As of July 4, Bello said DOLE’s overseas offices and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration recorded a total of 551,606 aid applications from both land-based and sea-based workers who are either still in host countries or have returned to the Philippines.
Earlier, the labor department was already given P2.5 billion in two tranches to finance the AKAP program.
Financing for the program came from the emergency fund under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
With the amount, 250,000 OFWs are expected to benefit from the assistance.
Of the total beneficiaries, 188,473 already received a total cash aid of P1.927 billion as of July 4.
About 56,283 OFWs of the total number of approved requests have yet to receive their assistance.
Of those who have received the aid, 105,756 are on-site while the rest have returned to the country.