MANILA: As the coronavirus disease (COVID-19 ) upends economic life around the world, the Philippine government is helping thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) return home.
Since the beginning of the global health crisis, over 23,000 OFWs have been repatriated, with the latest batch arriving at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on Wednesday, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
Among the recent returnees have been over 16,600 seafarers.
“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic in other countries, many OFWs are losing their jobs. I don’t know exactly the number, but we are helping many of them to come back where we can take care of them better, and where they can be more comfortable with their families,” said acting National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua.
“I don’t know the profile of these OFWs but I know that unemployment in (the Philippines) is down to record lows, suggesting more opportunities available for them especially in the construction sector,” he told members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines via a video link on Thursday.
Not all overseas Filipinos are planning to return’ Chua said many of them continue to work abroad, particularly in the health care and professional services sectors, and still send remittances to their families in the Philippines.
The government is also willing to help those temporarily hit by unemployment, both at home and abroad.
“We are ready through the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to support them in this temporary transition so that they have income also to help and feed their families," Chua said.
On Wednesday, DOLE said it had realigned part of its 2020 budget in order to provide one-time cash assistance to those workers who need it and had already distributed it to more than 70,000 OFWs.
Reports from the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices and local offices of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration earlier said that more than 297,000 OFWs were seeking financial aid.
Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced on Thursday that 33 more Filipinos living overseas had contracted COVID-19, bringing the total number of nationals infected abroad to 1,677. While 451 of them have recovered, 201 succumbed to the disease.
The data came from 46 countries — 12 in the Middle East and Africa, 12 in the Asia-Pacific region, 16 in Europe, and six in the Americas.