Philippines lifts restrictions on OFW departures as coronavirus lockdown eases

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 14 2020 01:55 PM | Updated as of May 14 2020 04:09 PM

Passengers wear surgical masks as protection from COVID-19 while waiting at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport – Terminal 1 on February 4, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/ File

MANILA- The government has lifted restrictions on Filipino departures for overseas employment as the country prepared to ease lockdown measures enforced because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Land-based or sea-based overseas Filipino workers can seek employment in another country as long as they sign a declaration signifying their knowledge of the risks of going overseas, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said.

"Ang mga land-based at sea-based na OFWs ay papayagan pong umalis para sa abroad," he said in a Palace briefing.

(Land-based and sea-based OFWs will be allowed to leave the country.)

It can be recalled that only Filipino health care workers with perfected and signed overseas employment contracts as of March 8, 2020 were allowed to leave the country last month.

The ban on the deployment of OFWs in countries barred by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, however, remains in effect, Roque clarified.

The policy comes as the majority of the country prepares to shift to a more relaxed community quarantine by Saturday with the exemptions of Metro Manila, neighboring Laguna province, and Cebu City in Visayas, which have been tagged as areas having a high risk of a coronavirus outbreak.

Roque reiterated that recruitment and placement agencies would be allowed to resume operations, both in areas under general community quarantine and modified enhanced community quarantine.

"Pinayagan na rin po ang mga recruitment and placement agencies na mag-operate," he said.

(Recruitment and placement agencies are allowed to operate again.)

Government agencies and offices involved in the processing of OFW deployment were, meanwhile, ordered to establishe "green lanes," which are meant to expedite the processing of their needed documents.

Many OFWs were forced to return to the Philippines after losing their jobs abroad due to the coronavirus crisis.

To help the displaced OFWs, the labor department launched a cash aid program where qualified workers may get a one-time $200 (P10,000) subsidy.