MANILA - Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan on Monday urged the executive branch to extend its cash aid program for formal sector employees and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were displaced due the work stoppage during the coronavirus crisis.
The number of Filipino workers displaced by the health crisis "is alarming" as these are pegged at around 2 million local workers and 230,000 OFWs, Pangilinan said in a statement.
"Napakahalaga lalong-lalo na sa panahong ito na ipaalam natin sa mga Pilipino na ang kanilang mga buwis at ang kanilang pamahalaan ay nagtatrabaho para sa kanila," he said.
(It is important, especially in times like these, to let Filipinos know that their taxes and their government are working for them.)
"We, in Congress, are prepared to pass a measure that would augment existing funds so that Filipinos in need are covered," he said, noting that "there are savings and unused funds" from the 2019 budget.
Under the Department of Labor and Employment's (DOLE) COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP), displaced formal workers may receive a one-time P5,000 assistance, while its Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) emergency fund provides a one-time P10,000 cash aid to qualified OFWs.
The DOLE recently suspended its cash aid program for workers after applications for the grant "ballooned beyond the capacity" of the agency with 1.6 million applications from 61,000 establishments nationwide seeking financial aid due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Before the program was discontinued on April 15, DOLE has disbursed some P1.2 billion for 237,000 out of 321,000 private sector workers affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
"We sincerely apologize to all our clients... who will not have the chance to avail of the CAMP financial assistance," DOLE-National Capital Region Director Sarah Buena Mirasol earlier said.
"Regretfully, we cannot also guarantee payment for those clients who have submitted before the suspension notice of our central office since we will only work around the remaining funds," she said.
Earlier this month, DOLE's P5 billion supplemental budget for its social amelioration program was approved after Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said about 1.8 million more Filipino workers were expected to take a hit from the global crisis.
The Department of Finance is planning to replace DOLE's cash aid program with a "wage subsidy for small business."