OFWs hit DOLE for halt in application for financial assistance

Gabriela-United Arab Emirates condemns the Philippines’ Department of Labor and Employment for suspending the acceptance of applicationsfor the USD 200 financial assistance that it promised to OFWs in the UAE.

The DOLE and the Philippine government gave many OFWs hope when they promised the financial assistance. By suspending the acceptance of applications for assistance, through Advisory No. 08-2020 dated April 20 released by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Dubai and Northern Emirates, they are showing us that they are “paasa lang.”

The excuse given by the DOLE for the suspension, that the submitted applications and the existing funds will be evaluated, is simply unacceptable. OFWs are running out of food and basic necessities, and the financial assistance is urgently needed now.

Bello said that the funds for the DOLE-AKAP, including the administrative expenses for central and regional operations that will be incurred in the course of the program’s implementation, should be sourced from DOLE Covid-19 Adjustment Measures Program (DOLE-CAMP) fund amounting to PhP1.5 billion.

There is an estimated 650,000 OFWs in the UAE, most of whom are workers who were laid off from work, whose wages are now delayed, whose wages have been cut by 25% to 50%, and who have been put under unpaid leave and “no work, no pay” arrangements. With a budget of PhP1.5 billion, it turns out that only 150,000 OFWs or less would be able to avail of the financial assistance.

There are also many OFWs whose contracts have ended and Filipinos who are “visit visa holders” who cannot find work, are now stranded in the UAE and are at a loss as to how to go back to the Philippines because of the lockdown.

gabuae

For many decades, the government has relied on OFW remittances to save the country’s economy. Now that we OFWs are the ones in need of saving, this government is leaving us high and dry. It turns out that not all OFWs in need will be given government assistance. Do top government officials think that OFWs are virus-proof and immune from Covid-19?

The suspension of the application process for the USD 200 financial assistance is yet another proof of the Duterte government’s neglect of OFWs. This government likes to brag about OFWs’ supposed support, likes to pretend that it champions the country’s OFWs, but now, during our time of need, it is failing to be there for us, to be of help to us.

We reiterate OFWs’s appeal to the Duterte government: immediate, sufficient and systematic distribution of financial assistance to all Filipino citizens both inside and outside of the country!

All OFWs and fellow Filipinos, whatever their visa status, as long as they are affected by the Covid-19 pandemic should be given financial assistance, including the following:
>> OFWs who have been laid off from work, whether staying in the host country or in the Philippines
>> OFWs who have been placed under “forced unpaid leave” and “no work, no pay” arrangements.
>> OFWs whoses wages have been cut and are delayed.
>> OFW families in the Philippines should be included in the government’s financial assistance program; those with OFW relatives should not be excluded.

>> Women migrants who are staying in shelters — in Bahay Kalinga, POLO shelters, and others.
>> OFWs who are in quarantine or self-isolation
>>  Workers who are supposed to return to work but are stranded in the Philippine.
>> OFW frontliners
>> OFW health workers who are affected by the supension of overseas deployment of health workers
>> Household workers who have been dismissed or who ran away because of abuses by employers

We are calling for immediate assistance. We demand that processes for accessing the financial assistance be made simple, easy, speedy, organized, and safe.

We are also appealing to the government to help the following return to the country: those whose contracts have expired and cannot find new work, and those who are “visit visa holders” who cannot return to the country because they do not have cash and because of the lack of flights caused by the lockdown.

We are appealing for the free processing of travel documents, especially of undocumented workers.

We are asking for continuous service from the POLO-OWWA and the Philippine embassies in host countries especially with regard to visa, labor and other related issues.

We are also calling for the repatriation of distressed OFWs, or OFWs who are affected by the pandemic and who desire to come home to the Philippines to be with their families and loved ones.

Gabriela-UAE is united with all OFWs in joining the Global Kalampagan on April 25. We are calling on all our kababayans to join this most important and timely protest activity. Our hashtag is our call: #OFWAssistanceNow. ###

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