By Leslie Ann Aquino
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said it has already received more than 30,000 requests for assistance from overseas Filipino workers wanting to avail of their “Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong” (AKAP) program.
In a press briefing, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III revealed that they are still in the process of reviewing the applications.
“We are still in the process of (assessing) their application and, after that, (we shall proceed with) remittances of cash assistance,” he said during the Laging Handa press briefing Saturday.
DOLE said earlier that overseas workers, both land-based and sea-based, who have been displaced by a lockdown in a foreign country will be given a one-time financial assistance amounting to P10,000 or USD200, or the equivalent amount in their host countries, under the AKAP program.
The program seeks to assist about 150,000 OFWs on-site or in host countries affected by lockdowns and those in the Philippines who are unable to return to their destinations.
OWWA started accepting applications for financial assistance online for repatriated or returning OFWs last April 13.
“As we observe stringent social distancing measures, all submissions of applications for ‘DOLE-AKAP FOR OFWs’ are to be done through online” it said.
According to DOLE, the AKAP program will cover regular or documented OFWs as defined in the 2016 Revised Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) rules and regulations.
The assistance program also covers qualified undocumented OFWs or those who were originally regular or documented workers but for some reason have lost their regular or documented status.
DOLE said that also included in the program are those who are not registered with the POEA or whose contracts were not processed by POEA or the POLO, but have undertaken actions to regularize their contracts or status; or who are not registered with the POEA or whose contracts were not processed by POEA or the POLO, but are active OWWA members at the time of availment.
Even those classified under the Balik-Manggagawa program who are unable to return to host country in view of host country lockdown due to COVID-19 are also entitled to receive the assistance, said DOLE.
DOLE said OFWs who have experienced job displacement due to the receiving country’s imposition of lockdown or community quarantine or on account of having been infected by the disease will also receive the cash assistance.
On-site OFWs must visit the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in their host country to apply for the program.