Press Release
August 20, 2020

De Lima urges colleagues to review implementation of govt's OFW repatriation and assistance programs

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called for a thorough review of the policies and practices concerning the repatriation and assistance programs being extended to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) during this time of crisis.

De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 497 directing the appropriate Senate Committee to look into the status of the national government's OFW repatriation and assistance programs amid reports of continued delays and inefficiencies in their implementation.

"There is an apparent lack of true understanding that the plight of the OFWs only begins with repatriation - that they would need further assistance to rehabilitate and reintegrate themselves back to the society upon return to the Philippines. Bringing them home is but a step, not the whole process," she said.

"Months after the implementation of the repatriation program, the concerned agencies have yet to come up with a coordinated and holistic approach to assist displaced OFWs who have signified interest to return to the Philippines to be with their families amid the pandemic," she added.

With COVID-19 having an unprecedented impact on global economies, businesses and workers, the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimated that nearly 2.2 billion workers, representing 68 percent of the global workforce, are living in countries with recommended or required workplace closures.

Recently, report from DOLE revealed that around 400,000 OFWs have already been laid off in various countries hit by COVID-19 while some analysts have estimated that the number of displaced OFWs could reach as high as 1 million by 2021.

As of June 29, according to the data from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), there are now a total of 8,467 total confirmed cases for COVID-19 among OFWs across 59 countries/regions.

In filing her Resolution, De Lima lamented how a significant portion of displaced OFWs have fared no better in the Philippines than abroad as they have, at times, experienced degrading treatment from the government agencies mandated to take care of their health and well-being, upon repatriation.

"These include OFWs undergoing prolonged quarantine procedures due to delays and inefficiencies in testing and processing of documents , having to camp underneath a flyover for days at a time due to vague and contradictory policies concerning stranded individuals, and having to deal with limited job prospects and potentially extended periods of unemployment upon their return," she said.

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator Hans Cacdac said that the P 5-billion allotment and cash allocation which the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has released last June 24 to augment the Emergency Repatriation Fund of the DOLE-OWWA will be utilized for "food, accommodation and transport of the repatriated OFWs."

De Lima, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, said that OWWA is seemingly oblivious of the true nature of the plight of OFWs who are forced by the global pandemic to come home.

"The situation for OFWs in the Philippines is fraught with too much risk and uncertainty that around 191,000 displaced OFWs have chosen to forego a return to the country and take their chances abroad instead," she said.

"The evident distrust and lack of confidence from a large contingent of displaced OFWs abroad in the government's capacity to take care of their needs during this time of pandemic is indicative of its overall failure to adequately address the needs of the Filipino people, OFWs included, arising from the COVID-19 outbreak," she added.

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