A composite photo of the video conference on May 23, 2020.
PHOTO BY FACEBOOK
DUBAI – Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello has ordered simplified requirements for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) applying for cash assistance during the coronavirus pandemic.
Bello made the statement after a Dubai-based OFW leader made the plea during a Zoom video conference on Saturday (May 23) with Philippine officials and OFW representatives from the UAE and other parts of the world. The virtual conference was hosted by Gemma Sotto, head of Global PCR International, the Philippine National Police’s helpline for OFWs.
“We’ve seen the complaints of OFWs worldwide regarding the application for cash assistance. Perhaps we can simplify the requirements,” Jennifer Guardian, founder of IRMAP group and a Covid-19 survivor, told Bello in Filipino.
Guardian suggested using either just a passport copy or the OFW e-card to quickly apply for the cash assistance programme, also known as the DOLE-AKAP, which provides one-time cash aid of $200 or Dh730 to qualified OFWs in the UAE and other parts of the world.
Bello agreed to simplifying the documentation for applicants, saying that he has received similar requests. “Pag may passport copy ka, okay na [If you have a passport copy, you’re okay],” he said.
The official also implied that labour attaches in the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) worldwide will be taking action after he made the statement on Saturday.
However, Bello has yet to issue an official advisory on the matter, with OFW leaders pointing out that without an advisory, POLO offices will not be able to implement the change.
Currently, POLO offices require applicants to submit a valid passport copy with employment visa, proof of employment and proof of loss of employment or no work, no pay status, on top of other prerequisites to avail of the program.
Meanwhile, Bello said that DOLE has received an additional P1 billion on top of the allocated budget of P1.5 billion for the DOLE-AKAP programme.
“I am pleased to inform you that so far we have given P1.3 billion to 130,000 OFWs both onsite and in the Philippines. There is P1.2 billion [left],” he said.
Bello said the agency would like to cover all OFWs who applied for cash assistance, but that the “number one priority” are OFWs displaced due to Covid-19, or are unable to work due to quarantine or because of the no work, no pay scheme.
“We also include OFWs stuck in the Philipines due to the lockdown,” he said in Filipino.
“After that, if there is still budget left, we will give everyone,” he said, adding that the program covers “all regular, documented and even undocumented OFWs”. PIA/ICA/Expat Media
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