Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Tuesday, Oct. 13, said the government already repatriated 250,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
During a press briefing in Malacañang, the labor chief assured they are extending assistance to OFWs.
“Whether they will be redeployed or not is a matter of choice of the OFWs,” said Bello.
He said some actually still want to go back and work abroad.
“Some of them still want to go back… In fact, there are alternative markets. We will help our OFWs to get deployed again,” Bello said.
“Those who no longer want to go back… we will provide them initial cash assistance and livelihood assistance,” he added.
On Oct. 11, the Department of Labor and Employment said 248,469 OFWs who have returned to the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic have been transported back to their respective provinces.
The government started transporting OFWs en masse in May after COVID tests and quarantine.
The OFW returnees were provided with accommodation, food, transportation, and COVID testing upon their arrival in the country.
To help OFWs financially, DOLE has also been extending a one-time P10,000 or $200 cash aid under the Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program to OFWs whose incomes were affected by the pandemic, both on-site and those stranded in the country.
Last month, Bello said more OFWs will benefit from the AKAP program following President Duterte’s signing of Bayanihan to Recover as One or Bayanihan 2 law.
The labor chief said there are alternative overseas job markets for displaced OFWs, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has resumed accepting and processing work visas; Qatar, which has abolished the ‘kafala’ system that requires migrant workers to get permission from their employers should they decide to change jobs; and the Kingdom of Bahrain, which has renewed the recruitment of household service workers.
Other job markets available for Filipino workers, he added, are China, Japan, Czech Republic, and Taiwan.