Task force pushes for P1.5-B financial aid to OFWs, workers hit by lockdown

MANILA, Philippines – The government body in charge of running the response to the coronavirus pandemic is pushing for the immediate release of P1.5 billion to fund financial assistance for overseas and local workers affected by lockdowns in Luzon and other parts of the country.

In a resolution signed on Tuesday, March 24, and released to the public on Wednesday, March 25, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases "endorsed" a proposal by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) earlier submitted to the Department of Budget and Management.

The document states that the amount is "for financial assistance for overseas workers and repatriated overseas workers."

However, in a separate statement on Wednesday, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that a portion of a P1.5-billion "available assistance package" was initially released "to affected workers both in the formal and informal sectors" locally, worth P35 million.

P10,000 for OFWS

Some 70,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) whose jobs were disrupted by the pandemic will each be given $200, or a little over P10,000 by the current exchange rate.

In the Philippines, DOLE reported that about 212,718 workers have been displaced because of lockdowns. These "displaced workers" include those whose workdays were reduced, were put on forced leave, or whose employers have temporarily shut down their businesses – any scenario that leads to a decrease or loss of their income.

The DOLE expects the number of displaced workers to increase as the "enhanced community quarantine" continues.

P5,000 for local employees

Bello urged private companies to apply for DOLE's COVID-19 Adjustment Measure Program (CAMP), which offers a one-time handout of P5,000 for their employees.

Employers may download the CAMP application form on the DOLE website, then email the filled-out form to the local DOLE office.

Minimum wage for 10 days

For informal workers, DOLE has the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers-Barangay Ko Bahay Ko (TUPAD-BKK) program, which will pay them the daily minimum wage for 10 days for disinfecting their own homes and surroundings.

Local health offices will assist TUPAD-BKK participants, who will also be given personal accident insurance, personal protective equipment, and cleaning kits.

The program will be managed by barangays or local government units in tandem with DOLE field offices.

Many parts of the Philippines are on lockdown to avert the spread of the novel coronavirus. Non-essential businesses have been ordered to scale down operations or to temporarily shut down, leaving their workers in limbo.

The lockdown also means public transport is grounded, making it difficult if not impossible for some employees to get to their workplaces, such as essential establishments like supermarkets and drugstores.

Since the Philippines and other virus-hit countries have restricted international travel, many OFWs have either been unable to take up jobs that were waiting for them abroad, or have been forced to leave jobs in other countries and come home.

As of Wednesday, the Philippines has recorded 636 confirmed cases of the virus, with 38 deaths and 26 recoveries. – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.

image