By Ben Rosario
The financial aid to farmers, who are credited with ensuring the country’s food supply during the COVID-19 crisis, and displaced overseas Filipino workers should be expedited by government agencies assigned to extend the assistance, said a lawmaker.
Deputy Speaker and 1PACMAN party-list Rep. Mikee Romero said the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) have to expedite the release of financial support for farmers and OFWs as reports indicated that “only a small fraction of our farmers and displaced OFWs have received assistance.”
Romero lamented the DAR and DOLE reports that were transmitted to Malacañang, but said he hopes the two departments will fast-track the grant of financial aid to the sectors requiring immediate attention.
He said the agriculture department has P3 billion for 591,246 target beneficiary-farmers.
“These are those tilling one hectare or less in 34 provinces who are to get P5,000 each,” he added.
However, Romero pointed out that based on the DA’s own report, as of April 14, only 52,043 or 8.8 percent have actually received aid amounting to P645 million.
But the House leader noted a statement of Agriculture Secretary William Dar that as of Wednesday, that figure has climbed to 22 percent of target beneficiaries having received aid.
He said in the case of displaced OFWs, the DOLE placed the number at 135,720, of whom 86,054 have applied for financial assistance.
Of these applications, only 3,245 have been approved as of April 16 and were “being processed for payment,” he said, quoting the DOLE.
He added that the labor department has P1.5 billion for dislocated OFWs.
Romero urged workers who lost their jobs abroad due to the coronavirus pandemic and were forced to fly home to apply for aid.
He said in the case of displaced workers here, the DOLE has helped a much larger number – 416,202 out of a target of 557,924. It has released P1.6 billion out of the P2.6 billion intended for these workers, he said.