The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) aid it will get an additional PHP1 billion for its Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program that provides cash assistance to displaced and stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) due to coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
“Good news. I just received notice (from) the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) that it will add PHP1 billion for our funds,” said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III during a Laging Handa briefing.
The AKAP program provides a one-time cash aid worth USD200 (PHP10,000) for OFWs.
Bello said they initially requested for PHP2.5 billion as additional funding for the program.
“We requested an additional budget of PHP2.5 billion hoping that this will be sufficient to answer for the estimated OFWs affected by Covid but we are only given PHP1 billion. I think we will live within the limit of the PHP1 billion,” he said.
As of Wednesday, Bello said the agency has approved over 100,000 applications for the AKAP program out of the around 411,000 received.
He admitted that their initial estimate of 150,000 OFWs with a budget of PHP1.5 billion, is far from the actual applicants who applied.
“We found that our estimate is a little low, as of yesterday (Wednesday), 411,000 have applied for the AKAP. We approved more than 100,000, so there is still excess funds,” Bello said.
He assured that until they still have funds they will continue to accept and approve applications of qualified beneficiaries.
“What is important until we have the money, we will continue to accept applications and those who will qualify we will give them USD200 cash assistance and if they are here in the country, we will give them the peso equivalent of PHP10,000,” the DOLE secretary added.
For Filipinos abroad, Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in the country they are employed is accepting applications for the cash aid, while the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) is processing the applications for applicants in the Philippines. (Ferdinand Patinio, PNA)