Without any comprehensive and adequate assistance program, only 150,000 OFWs will be getting the one-time financial assistance of Php 10K or US$200 from DOLE. This is even less than half of the 420,000 OFWs expected to return back to the Philippines due to the COVID-19 recession. As if the troubles faced by affected OFWs are not enough, they are even required to submit requirements to POLO or regional OWWA offices when processing and disbursement could be done more easily and conveniently thru: 1) Online, in partnership with banks, remittance shops and telcos, 2) worksite processing and disbursement, or, 3) one-stop processing at NAIA.
OFWs face so many challenges going to POLO offices in some countries like Saudi Arabia. Physically submitting requirements is almost impossible for OFWs working in remote and distant areas. Many of them are just too wary of being caught in Saudi’s 3pm curfew. Moreover, Filipinos in Saudi Arabia won’t easily forget the 1st of April incident when officials and personnel of POLO and OWWA in Riyadh harshly drove out distressed OFWs seeking help.
Disappointment and frustration are mounting up among a great number of affected OFWs who will be left without any relief in their hardships. Through the DOLE guidelines, the beneficiaries of the cash assistance are ultimately reduced to OFWs who lost their jobs in the listed priority countries. Excluded from Duterte’s DOLE-AKAP Php10K financial aid are the following:
- OFW frontliners
- OFWs on No-work-No-pay arrangements
- OFWs with reduced salaries
- OFWs who have finished contracts but are unable to return back to the Philippines due to flight cancellations and host-country lockdowns.
- Stranded OFWs in Luzon who are unable to leave due to the lockdown.
- OFWs unable to leave because they are under quarantine or self-isolation
- Balik Manggagawa stranded due to the lockdown in the Philippines
- OFW health workers affected by the suspension on overseas deployment.
- Terminated or runaway household workers whose cases are misinterpreted as non-COVID related.
- Filipino migrants under education or cultural exchange programmes like US J-1 visa holders and Au Pairs in Europe.
- Trafficking victims
- Stranded undocumented Filipinos in Sabah
- Jailed OFWs
- OFWs abandoned in shelters
- OFWs from China, Thailand, Belgium, Vietnam and other affected countries excluded from the list of priority countries
The Duterte government needs to concretely analyze the needs and situation of OFWs now more than ever. Migrante International calls on the Duterte government to put forward a more comprehensive plan of coverage to all OFWs affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Filipino migrants are already reeling from the discrimination they face in host countries. It is even more disheartening that they now have to suffer discrimination, exclusion and unequal treatment from their very own government in the Philippines. As our demonstration of support to OFWs affected by the COVID-19 recession and pandemic, Migrante International will join progressive Filipino migrant communities across the world on 12 April 2020, in their Kalampagan or noise barrage protest to continue pressing the Duterte government to listen and take action on the pleas of our kababayans abroad.