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Migrants demand accounting of virus relief aid for OFWs

10 April 2020

By The SUN

Balladares reminding fellow OFWs to follow govt rules on social distancing amid the pandemic

A migrant worker’s group is calling for an accounting of billions of pesos in funds allotted by the Philippine government to help overseas Filipino workers whose jobs have been affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The call followed the Department of Labor and Employment’s release on Apr 8 of the details of the Php10,000 (or USD200) cash aid to be given to OFWs who have contracted Covid-19 or lost their jobs because of the disease.

A subsequent post by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office said applicants for the so-called Dole Akap program (1) must not be a HK resident, and (2) has lost his/her job (temporary o permanent) because of Covid-19 and is not getting any financial support from the HK government or an employer.

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Dolores Balladares, chair of United Filipinos (Migrante) in Hong Kong, said in a statement on Apr 9 that Php1.5 billion has been allotted for OFWs from the massive Php275 billion emergency relief fund granted to President Rodrigo Duterte by Congress to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

But according to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III’s own estimated, only 70,000 OFWs stand to benefit from the fund, which means only Php700 million, or less than half the allocated budget, will go to them.

“Where would the rest of the money go?,” Balladares asked.

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She said that while OFWs appreciate that money has been set aside for them from the relief fund, the financial aid will not go far in helping those who have lost their jobs.

“Did the government consider Php10,000 financial assistance to a Covid-19 victim sufficient to cover the patient’s needs and that of his family?” she said in her statement.

She also said the government should consider whether money intended to help OFWs really reaches its beneficiaries.

Some of the thousands of stranded OFWs who applied for the OWWA aid
She cited as example the Php300 million set aside by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration for OFWs stranded in the Philippines because of a temporary travel ban imposed on travelers to China, Macau and Hong Kong in February.

“Thousands of stranded OFWs did not receive any financial assistance due to the bureaucratic procedure. Where did the funds for this program go?” she asked.

Balladares said that more than a one-off aid, affected OFWs need a job on their return to the Philippines.

“Create jobs at home, this is our urgent call,” she said.

In the meantime, she said the Consulate and Polo should give full assistance and relief to OFWs who have lost their jobs. She also called for a moratorium on the fees charged them by the two government agencies.

According to the Polo advisory, those applying for the USD200 cash relief must submit the following: passport and visa copy, HK ID, verified employment contract, airline ticket (if any), proof of loss of employment due to Covid-19, and for those who have been infected, a medical certificate.

Claims may be made by accomplishing a form posted on the Facebook page of POLO – Hong Kong SAR and submitting it to for evaluation. Those who are already in the Philippines should go to the OWWA regional office nearest them.

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