At least P84 million given to OFWs hit by virus travel ban – OWWA

MANILA, Philippines – The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said the government has distributed some P84 million in aid to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were stranded in the Philippines due to travel restrictions imposed over the novel coronavirus outbreak.

OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac gave the figure during a press conference at Malacañang on Monday, March 2.

He said the assistance was given to 8,448 OFWs who were stationed mostly in China, Hong Kong, and Macau.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) earlier announced that each affected worker would receive P10,000. Repatriated OFWs coming from China will also get at least P20,000 from DOLE.

Last February 2, the Philippine government had banned travel to and from China and its administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau. All Filipinos were not allowed to go to the 3 areas, while only Filipinos and permanent resident card holders could enter the Philippines.

The situation left thousands of OFWs stranded in the Philippines, including those who were set to return to work after Chinese New Year and those who were newly deployed. They feared losing their source of income.

The Philippine government later lifted the ban on OFWs, permanent residents, and Filipinos leaving abroad for study in China, Hong Kong, and Macau on February 18.

'No negative signals'

Aside from this, Cacdac said OWWA is ready to assist Filipino workers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Japan, should they wish to permanently stay and work in the Philippines.

But he added that the workers' manning agent assured the government that all workers will be rehired when they are cleared to return to work.

Cacdac also said there have been "no negative signals" on possible effects of the coronavirus on the overseas hiring of Filipinos.

"No negative signals in the sense na magbabawas sila o ayaw na nila ng Filipino (that they will lay off workers or will no longer hire Filipinos)," he said.

Cacdac likewise assured the public that the government has enough funds to continue helping OFWs affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

As of Monday morning, the virus has killed more than 3,000 people, with 2,912 of them in China. More than 88,000 people have been infected by the virus, which has spread to over 60 countries. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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