MANILA - The Philippine government must act fast to provide jobs to thousands of returning overseas Filipino workers displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic, a lawmaker said Tuesday.
In an interview on ANC's Headstart, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the government should start preparing now as many repatriated OFWs won't be able to return to their previous jobs abroad.
"These are skilled OFWs returning, ngayon pa lang i-match natin sila sa tulong ng DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) at ng OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) at local government units, i-match natin itong mga skilled returning OFWs natin sa mga trabahong pwedeng ibigay, i-generate sa gobyerno at sa ating private sector," said Hontiveros.
(These are skilled OFWs returning, let's start matching them with the help of DOLE, OWWA and local government units with jobs we can give, that government and the private sector can generate.)
The pandemic, which has affected countries around the world, has left some 341,161 OFWs displaced from work, DOLE figures showed.
The department said only 16,000 out of an estimated 42,000 OFWs awaiting repatriation will return home this month after many of them failed to meet documentary requirements.
"We need to get that reintegration program up and running lalo na't (especially) with the labor force survey results of the Philippine Statistical Authority and NEDA last Friday, there are already 7.3 million Filipinos who are unemployed in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic," said Hontiveros.
Some 72,000 OFWs have received financial assistance from DOLE's Abot Kamay ng Pagtulong program, government data showed. OFWs who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic are entitled to a one-time $200 or P10,000 financial assistance.
"Sa halip na madagdag lang sa bilang nila ang ating mga returning OFWs (Instead of the returning OFWs being added to the unemployed), let's be proactive about identifying new drivers of growth in agriculture and food, in secondary urban centers along the train and other transport networks and also in digital transformation para mai-place natin sa trabaho at hanapbuhay (so we could place them in jobs and livelihood) in a real Balik Probinsiya or Sulong Probinsiya program that will absorb, include and benefit from the returning OFWs," said the senator.
More than 31,000 OFWs have returned to their hometowns after being stuck in quarantine facilities in Metro Manila for weeks following their repatriation flights.
The government expedited the return of some 25,000 OFWs to their respective provinces from May 25 to 31, according to OWWA. Some 6,700 others were transported from June 1 to 5.