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Polo urged to be transparent on Dole-Akap pay-outs

20 May 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

Despite the cash infusion, HK OFWs are told the handout will still be given on a first come, first served basis 

Philippine Labor Attache Melchor Dizon has announced that fresh funding has been given to Hong Kong for the Dole-Akap financial aid, even as a migrant leader called for transparency in the doleout, saying many OFWs had been told they were not qualified, or had missed the cut-off.

Dizon said in an advisory on May 19 that the additional funding from the Department of Labor and Employment in Manila will allow the Philippine Overseas Labor Office to give aid to more OFWs affected by the novel coronavirus.
“…Ipinaaabot sa lahat ng nga kuwalipikadong OFWs sa Dole-Akap program, na patuloy na tatanggap ng inyong aplikasyon ang POLO Hong Kong dahil inilabas na ng Department of Budget ang karagdagang pondo para dito,” Dizon said.

 (We would like to inform all OFWs qualified for the Dole-Akap program that Polo Hong Kong continues to receive your applications because the Department of Budget has released additional funds for this.)

But his advisory posted on the Polo Facebook page said applications will be considered on a first come, first served basis due to the limited supplementary funding.
That means, the cash aid will be dispensed only until the new “quota” approved by the Department of Labor and Employment for Polo Hong Kong has been reached.

Dizon did not mention the amount of additional funding for displaced OFWs in Hong Kong or the number of affected workers who have received the financial aid.

This has led Dolores Balladares, chair of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, to question Polo’s lack of transparency.
Balladares says Polo should say how much money was allotted for HK OFWs, and  how many were given the aid
Balladares was surprised to hear that Polo is inviting new applications for Dole-Akap when, just this week, its staff reportedly told a newly dismissed domestic worker the deadline for application for the cash aid had already closed.

“Dapat tulungan pa din ang ating kababayan. Priority ang Hong Kong, bakit ang bilis magdeklara na tapos na. Hindi nga namin alam kung ilan ang nabigyan. Dapat maging transparent ang Polo dito,” the Unifil leader said.

She also decried the narrow interpretation by Polo of who should be getting the financial aid.

“Dapat bigyan ng tulong ang mga na-terminate, kahit di Covid ang nakasulat na dahilan sa mga termination. At kahit totoong hindi Covid, tulungan pa din sila. At magreport sa mga OFW kung ilan na ang nakakuha ng ayuda. Maging transparent ang Polo,” she said.

Those who were put on hold pending the additional cash injection includes some of the 49 Filipino musicians who were put in quarantine centers after the virus swept through a cluster of bars in Hong Kong.

According to Manuela Lo, chairperson of the Hong Kong Musicians Union, most of the quarantined musicians had already received the USD200 cash aid, but a few were told the wait after the money had run out.

In addition, 22 other musicians stricken by Covid-19 also got help from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

A few OFWs commented on the Polo post that they could not get through the online application site, or did not get confirmation after applying a month ago.

One said that she decided to go personally to Polo to apply, but was told only online applications were accepted.

One complainant, Beng Ellorin, said she had been stranded in the Philippines since March but her attempts to apply online had been futile.

Another complained Polo rejected her application even when she was summarily dismissed two months ago and was now jobless.

The number of Filipino domestic workers who lost their jobs in April alone surpassed 3,000, Hong Kong Immigration figures show. From January, the figure was almost 5,000.

Most, if not all of them, should receive the US$200 cash aid, if the criteria used by Polo in assessing applications are not as stringent as they appear to be.

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