The House of Representatives is ready to augment funds for the repatriation of more than 100,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) still stranded in their host countries amid the coronavirus pandemic, a House leader said on Friday.
Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor, chair of the House Committee on Public Accounts, said the augmentation can be included in the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One bill or Bayanihan 2, which is expected to be approved once Congress opens its second regular session on Monday, July 27.
“We have to get all of our workers who have been rendered jobless by the Covid-19 pandemic home to be with their loved ones. We can appropriate in Bayanihan 2 additional funds for their repatriation and reintegration once they are here,” Defensor said.
During a hearing last week, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Sarah Arriola informed the panel that the department has used up about PHP770 million of its PHP1-billion assistance to nationals’ fund for the return of stranded OFWs.
She said the remaining PHP230 million would be exhausted by next month, noting that there were 107,000 OFWs still to be repatriated.
According to the DFA, one charter flight costs between PHP12 million and PHP13 million.
Defensor said more than 50 charter and commercial flights have brought in tens of thousands of OFWs since the panel started its hearing in June.
The task force has increased its limit of overseas Filipinos allowed to fly in from 1,000 to 3,000 a day to accommodate more returning OFWs.
“The DFA has promised to fly in an additional 50,000 OFWs this month, while other agencies, including the Department of Labor and Employment and the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration, are prepared to receive, process and help them, given them aid and get them to their families,” he said.
During the panel’s July 14 hearing, Arriola reported that a total of 82,057 overseas Filipinos had been repatriated to the Philippines. (PNA)