By Argyll Geducos
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has already extended P35 million to 3,500 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affected by the travel ban being implemented by the government amid the threat of the 2019-novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD).
In a press briefing in Malacañang, Bello said DOLE’s reintegration program for OFWs affected by the 2019-nCoV ARD scare includes financial assistance, livelihood assistance, and alternative employment abroad.
Bello said DOLE has given P10,000 to each OFW affected by the travel ban to China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau.
He added that his agency has also given P20,000 to each of the OFWs repatriated from Wuhan, China over the weekend as they will stay in the country “for good.”
“Ang minimum assistance namin sa OFWs ay P20,000. Hindi ‘yan pautang, bigay ‘yan (Our minimum assistance to our FWs is P20,000. That is not a loan. We will give it to them),” Bello said.
“It can go as high as P1 million depende sa business na papasukan nila. Ito ay interest-free (depending on the nature of the business they want to start. This is interest-free),” he added.
However, the Labor Secretary said OFWs who are only in the Philippines for a vacation are not qualified for financial assistance.
Meanwhile, Bello assured that if the 2019-nCoV ARD situation in the country improves, DOLE could recommend the lifting of the travel. He said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III asked for two weeks so he can observe the developments before taking any recommendatory action on the ban.
Health Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo announced during the same press briefing that the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease was considering to include Taiwan in the travel ban.
“A resolution will be released for the inclusion of Taiwan in the travel ban, but it’s not yet final. It will still be discussed,” he said.
The Philippines has implemented a travel ban on foreign travelers from China, Hong Kong, and Macau after the Department of Health confirmed the first case of the 2019-nCoV ARD in the country.
There have been 18 confirmed cases of the virus in Taiwan, with no fatalities.
According to Bello, there are about 120,000 documented OFWs in Taiwan but said the figure may reach 200,000 if the undocumented OFWs are taken into account.