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120K OFWs still awaiting repatriation; more in 2021

By: Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Jerome Aning, Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:30 AM December 18, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — More than 126,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are still waiting to be repatriated nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) official.

The OFWs have asked to be returned home after their jobs were affected by the global economic slump due to the health crisis, said Alice Visperas, director of the DOLE’s International Labor Affairs Bureau.

But 82,000 other displaced Filipinos have decided to remain in their host countries to look for other jobs, Visperas said.

The government has flown or shipped home more than 550,000 pandemic-displaced OFWs, including seafarers since the start of the year, she said. More than 370,000 of them have been transported to their home provinces, she added.

80,000 more coming

The government task force in charge of the repatriations is expecting 80,000 more OFWs to come home in the first half of next year, the chief of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said on Thursday.

Returning workers are given a one-time P10,000 financial assistance, while those who are still abroad and were afflicted with COVID-19 are entitled to $200 cash benefit, OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said during the Laging Handa public briefing,

Cacdac assured returning OFWs of free government services, such as swab testing, lodging in hotel quarantines and transport to their home provinces.

The Philippines used to send more than 5,000 OFWs daily before the pandemic. Deployment has yet to fully normalize, said Cacdac, who once headed the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

“We are seeing that the deployment of our fellow countrymen is normalizing, slowly but surely, of course. Our deployment rate as compared to the pre-COVID period has not yet returned, but it has risen to 20 to 40 percent now,” he said.

Money remittances

Cacdac said he expected dollar remittances to also return to normal. OFWs tend to remit more to their families home, he noted.

The OWWA head also described as a “welcome development” the approval on third reading of a House bill giving OFWs 50-percent discounts from service fees imposed by banks and remittance centers on money they send to their families, regardless of amount.

“It is just right that as much as possible, the remittances of our OFWS are fully received by their families. We thank the legislators who proposed this measure,” he said.#

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