“As of now, we’re still looking at around 47,000 Filipinos stuck in the Middle East. We’re just waiting for our SARO actually (Special Allotment Release Order),” said DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola at the Senate hearing on the requested P21.96 billion budget of DFA 2021.
On the other hand, Arriola thanked the Congress for the passage of Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, which allocated P820 million to the DFA to help OFWs.
“Once we get our SARO, we will resume our flights because we’ve been chartering already a lot of flights. We’ve already chartered 57 flights using our original Assistance to Nationals (ATN) fund,” the official explained.
Arriola added that they also need to adjust the expenses demanded by the employers of some stranded OFWs.
“Some of the employers would ask us for the deployment costs, which as of now we’re also doing but quietly. If we don’t do that, we won’t be able to bring them home,” she said.
47,000 OFWs from Middle East need repatriation – DFA
Due to the crisis created by COVID-19, Arriola said that more and more Filipinos in the Middle East are losing their jobs and becoming undocumented.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., on the other hand, said that OFWs are losing good jobs due to the pandemic.
“The jobs that we are losing in the Middle East are the better ones—the engineers because the projects have ended. Those higher and more skilled jobs have been lost, and it doesn’t look like they’ll be coming back anytime soon,” Locsin said.
He said the work of domestic workers is not greatly affected.
Earlier, Arriola said up to 208,000 OFWs have been repatriated to the Philippines.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) earlier launched the Tapang OFW Program, which offers one-time cash aid to children of OFWs who are going to college.
The government has allocated P1 billion to fund the program that would benefit around 30,000 OFW beneficiaries.