More than 600,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are seeking assistance due to the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) reported on Sunday.
The Labor department cited data from the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) which showed that 604,403 onsite and repatriated OFWs had sought DOLE's cash aid as of August 15 and approved close to half the requests of about 272,000 OFWs.
DOLE provides the one-time $200 or P10,000 assistance under the Abot Kaya ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program to migrant workers affected by the pandemic with total funding of P2.5 billion meant to benefit 250,000 OFWs.
According to DoLE, the budget is almost fully depleted with the disbursement of P2.436 billion to 237,778 OFW beneficiaries as of Saturday.
Of those seeking assistance,349,977 are onsite workers or those displaced and stranded overseas, while 254,426 are repatriated land-based and sea-based OFWs.
The DoLE said a total of 146,658 returning OFWs have also been transported to their home provinces as of August 15.
The latest batch of 3,081 repatriated workers took their rides home after being tested negative of the virus, it said.
DoLE added that a separate batch of 2,743 OFWs were bused to the provinces on Friday.
Aside from transportation, the OFWs were provided hotel accommodation and other assistance while awaiting results of their COVID-19 tests.
Last week, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III revealed that President Duterte ordered the release of P5 billion in additional funds for the repatriation and assistance to OFWs, a huge portion of which went to OWWA.