OFW new-hire deployments dwindle to 47 in April

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NEW-HIRE deployment of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) dwindled to 47 in April from more than 30,000 a year earlier, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) told Congress.

“For April last year, new-hire deployments reached 30,592. This year (in) April, we only had 47. This is new hires, all types of workers. So the reduction in deployment is 99.85%,” POEA Administrator Bernard P. Olalia said during the virtual hearing of the House committee on overseas worker affairs

Rehire deployments fell 99.48% to 667 in April.

“During the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) period, there were some seafarers which had employment contracts which expired or terminated. So what we did is was to extend the employment contracts for 60 days. This is to address the issue of crew changes. We also extended the accreditation of their principals,” Mr. Olalia said.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Y. Arriola reported that a total of 2,461 overseas Filipinos are infected by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Of the 2,461 cases, 285 died while 861 were able to recover.

Ms. Arriola added that the agency was able to repatriate 28,589 overseas Filipinos and was able to charter 2,187 flights for their repatriation.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) reported that it has spent about P497 million to assist 5,133 OFWs with accommodation, transport and food since the start of the ECQ in Luzon.

“We don’t see mandatory quarantine ending anytime soon, therefore we expect spending to continue, especially for hotels. We are asking for money, for help. We see the OWWA fund being tapped for a post-lockdown scenario,” OWWA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac said.

During a virtual briefing on May 11, OWWA asked Congress for P2.5-billion to finance assistance to returning OFWs.

AAMBIS-OWWA Party-List Rep. Sharon A. Garin, who co-chairs the House economic stimulus cluster of the Defeat COVID-19 committee, said the panel will study the proposal for inclusion in the Philippine Economic Stimulus Act (PESA) which aims to inject about P568-billion into the economy for the recovery effort.

Kulang yung pera ngayon (money is tight) but we are proposing that OFWs should be covered with a two moth wage subsidy after the ECQ. It’s a very important industry, it delivers 10% of GDP (gross domestic product) or more even…I think we need to protect it not only for the GDP but also for their families,” she said. — Genshen L. Espedido