DOLE takes back advisory on ending OFW cash aid in some countries

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) took back an earlier advisory that said it has stopped accepting applications for its overseas Filipino worker cash aid program in some countries.

In its first advisory on Wednesday, April 22, DOLE announced that some Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) had exceeded their allocation for the one-time P10,000 cash aid or "DOLE-AKAP" program for OFWs who lost jobs or experienced income loss to coronavirus lockdowns.

But later on Wednesday afternoon, DOLE said: "Please be advised that the public advisory is a WRONG announcement. Our apologies!"

DOLE disclosed in its earlier advisory that the department only had P1.5 billion for the cash aid program under its coronavirus adjustment measures program (CAMP).

An estimated one million Filipinos abroad have been dislocated from work due to the pandemic, but government's cash aid can only manage to service 150,000 of them, DOLE earlier said. "With said limited budget, only 150,000 OFWs out of the million Filipinos overseas can be accomodated under the assistance program," DOLE said in the "wrong" advisory that it took back.

'No more budget'

On the basis of the first advisory, Rappler asked Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado for comment. He explained that the government has already allocated what it can for DOLE, given the additional P2.5 billion released earlier for the private sector worker financial subsidy.

"Wala [nang] nakalaan na pondo para d'yan po. Naibigay na namin lahat sa DOLE. (There no longer are any funds allocated for that program. We already gave DOLE its share)," Avisado said.

Asked whether additional funding can be given as allowed in the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, Avisado told Rappler that the President has already instructed them to provide what they can allocate.

Section 4(v) of the Bayanihan Act gives the President the power to utilize savings generated from discontinued programs in the 2019 and 2020 budgets, to augment funding for coronavirus measures, including DOLE's CAMP.

"May instruction na si PRRD patungkol diyan…na ibigay kung ano 'yung pwede pang ibigay at naibigay na lahat," (The President has already given an instruction on that, which is to provide what we can and we have already did)," Avisado said.

But he conceded it all depends on the President. "Kung may order from PRRD, sunod lang po kami. (If the President will issue an order, we will just follow)," he said.

So far, the President has declared P246.28 billion as savings from discontinued programs in various agencies.

As of April 20, a total of P6.34 billion has been released to DOLE's coronavirus programs, including the P1.5 billion allocation for OFW cash aid. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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