MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is seeing a decrease in remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) by up to 40 percent or around $13 billion this year as the world reels from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are expecting a reduction by around 30 to 40 percent…considering the number of repatriation and the number of displacement of our OFWs while they are there in their places of employment,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III told senators during Wednesday’s Senate labor committee hearing.

Senator Joel Villanueva, who presided over the hearing as chair of the committee, noted that DOLE’s estimate was higher than the projection of the Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development, which predicts a 20-percent drop in OFW remittances in 2020.

According to Bello, there are around 345,000 OFWs affected by the current health crisis. Of this number, however, 191,000 have opted to stay in host countries despite the government’s repatriation offer.

Meanwhile, around 59,000 OFWs have been brought home to the Philippines as of June 23.

Bello added that 42,000 OFWs are slated to be repatriated in the coming weeks.

In terms of assistance, the labor chief said DOLE has so far extended emergency employment and subsidies to more than a million formal and informal workers.

DOLE projects four more million Filipino workers will lose their jobs amid the pandemic by the end of the year, on top of the more than million employees already displaced by the pandemic.

Bello further said DOLE has given a total of P1.8 billion in one-time cash assistance to displaced OFWs worth P10,000 each under its Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP).

“Kaya lang problema namin, ang nag-apply for this assistance is almost more than 500,000 kaya kakapusin kami niyan,” he said.

(But our problem is that roughly 500,000 have applied for this assistance so our funds may not be enough).

Bello said he would request for additional assistance to accommodate more OFWs.

“The problems that plagued us in government are no laughing matter. I think it’s appropriate to give credit to the efforts of DOLE, [Department of Foreign Affairs], and all other agencies, directly and indirectly, involved in the repatriation of OFWs and extension of all possible assistance to our workers,” Villanueva said before he closed the hearing.

“Before the coronavirus pandemic, we have already been talking about issues confronting our workers here and abroad. Mas matindi pa ang mga isyu ngayong may pandemya. Obviously, napakatindi po ng tama sa atin dahil may Pilipino sa halos lahat ng mga bansa at kontinente sa buong mundo,” he added.

(Before the coronavirus pandemic, we have already been talking about issues confronting our workers here and abroad. These issues got worse in the wake of the pandemic. Obviously, we are the hardest hit because there are Filipinos in almost every country and continent).

KGA



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