Filipino repatriates to receive gov’t assistance: DOLE
By Azer Parrocha
MANILA (Philippines News Agency) — All Filipino repatriates from countries with confirmed cases of 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD) will be receiving financial, livelihood, and employment assistance from government, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III announced on Monday.
Bello said his agency has prepared a “reintegration program” that consists of PHP20,000 worth of financial assistance, livelihood assistance, and alternative employment opportunities especially for those who have decided to stay in the Philippines for good.
“Immediate financial assistance when they come here, no question asked, as long as you’re an OFW (overseas Filipino worker), active member of OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration), we give you financial assistance,” Bello said in a Laging Handa press briefing in Malacañang.
“Then aside from that, we also have livelihood assistance and then I’m sure most of them may also consider another employment opportunity so we have also alternative employment abroad,” he added.
He said his agency is currently establishing labor relations with countries such as Canada, Russia, Czechoslovakia, Croatia, and China for employment opportunities.
Scholarships will also be provided to children of Filipino repatriates, he added.
To date, there are 30 OFWs who just returned home from China’s Wuhan City, ground zero of the 2019-nCoV ARD.
They are currently undergoing the prescribed 14-day quarantine period at the Athlete’s Village in New Clark City in Tarlac.
None of the OFWs under quarantine have shown symptoms of the disease, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella assured that his agency is ready to assist all OFWs who wish to return home amid the outbreak.
Meanwhile, Bello allayed concerns of OFWs affected by the temporary travel ban to mainland China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macao that they could lose their jobs for failing to resume work right away.
“There is no basis yet to say that the employment of these returning OFWs had been affected because we got verified information from our labor attaché in Hong Kong that the employers of our overseas workers there granted extension of vacation of our OFWs,” Bello said.
He said OFWs barred from returning to the three countries were given financial assistance worth PHP10,000 each.
“And as of Friday, we extended PHP35 million to 3,500 OFWs but that is also growing every day,” Bello said.
Bello also assured that the temporary travel ban could be lifted once the situation normalizes.
“They will have an observation period of two weeks. Kung lalala (If it gets worse), then it stays. But if it improves, hindi naman lumalala yung coronavirus problem baka ma-recommend ang (if the coronavirus problem doesn’t worsen, we may recommend the) lifting of the travel ban,” Bello said.
There are at least 3,500 OFWs from China, Hong Kong, and Macao who have been prohibited from leaving the country due to the temporary travel ban.
However, he said the number could reach as high as 10,000 to 15,000.
In the same press briefing, Interior Undersecretary and spokesperson Jonathan Malaya thanked the municipality of Capas, Tarlac for withdrawing its objection to the use of the Athlete’s Village in New Clark City in Tarlac as a quarantine site for the 30 Filipino repatriates from Wuhan City, the epicenter of the nCoV outbreak in China.
“The DILG welcomes the decision of the local government of Capas, Tarlac because they placed the national interest above and beyond objections of some of their constituents,” Malaya said.
Malaya pointed out that the national government does not need the approval of the municipality to use the Athlete’s Village because it is part of the New Clark City which is a development of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority.
He also assured the residents of Capas, Tarlac that all precautionary measures are in place to prevent the spread of the 2019-nCoV in their locality.
He said the movement of the repatriates is limited to the quarantine building only.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has been tasked to secure the perimeter of New Clark City, Malaya said.
None of the OFWs under quarantine have shown symptoms of the disease. They are only being quarantined as a precautionary measure, he added.
He also called on local governments to amplify its information campaign to respond to the health crisis such as proper handwashing, sneezing and coughing etiquette among others.
Barangay health emergency and response teams with basic knowledge on 2019-nCoV were also urged to report possible cases immediately.
President Rodrigo Duterte is set to meet 1,715 local chief executives from mayors to governors to strengthen government efforts against 2019-nCoV and discuss other national issues. (PNA)