The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is now working with other countries to secure more jobs for the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) displaced by the pandemic.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said a huge number of livelihoods is on the table and assured that OFWs who lost their jobs since the start of the health crisis last year will be prioritized by the Department.
“In the meantime, we are creating more employment destination for the overseas Filipino workers. That’s the reason why we are entering into agreement with Canada, Russia, China and even Bangkok so that we will have bilateral agreements with them to provide work destination for OFWs,” Bello said.
Bilateral Labor Agreements (BLAs), as explained by Bello, are formal agreements entered into by the Philippines with countries of destination to govern deployment, labor cooperation on the protection and promotion of rights and welfare of OFWs, and human resources development.
While OFW deployment is still limited due to travel restrictions in some countries, Bello advised Filipino workers to continue honing their skills while in the Philippines.
DOLE, through its attached agency the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), has been at the forefront of providing various assistance to OFWs affected by the pandemic.
Based on the latest data shared by DOLE, a total of 702,000 OFWs were repatriated and have been reunited with their families after undergoing the required quarantine protocols.
Among the programs provided by the labor agency to displaced OFWs is the “Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong” or AKAP where beneficiaries will be given $200 (P10,000) or its equivalent to the local currency of the worker’s host country.
Children of OFWs are also receiving aid through scholarship grants under OFW Dependent Scholarship Program (ODSP), an educational assistance of P20,000 per school year to qualified dependents of active member OFW whose salary is not more than 600 dollars.
Meanwhile, the labor chief noted that not only active members are receiving aid from DOLE.
“Generally dapat sa mga active members pero sa panahon ng pandemya kailangan intindihin mo ang kanilang kalagayan. Kahit paano yung ayuda na binibigay sa regular OFWs binibigyan din natin sila ([The program] is usually for active members only but during a pandemic we need to understand the situation. We have also been extending, somehow, the help to regular OFWs),” Bello added.
Other DOLE programs for OFWs are OWWA’s Balik Pinas Balik Hanapbuhay (BPBH), Education and Livelihood Assistance Program (ELAP) and Tulong Pangkabuhayan Para sa Pag-unlad ng Samahang OFWs (Tulong Puso).