MANILA — Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III is asking Congress for an additional PHP1.1 billion into its 2018 budget for the repatriation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East.
In an interview at the sidelines of the congressional bicameral conference on the proposed 2018 budget, Bello said the proposed additional funding would be used for the repatriation and reintegration of OFWs in Qatar, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia.
We have requested for additional budgetary allocation because we are aware of the situation in Qatar, in relation to its diplomatic relations with other Middle East countries and also in the case of Lebanon and Saudi,” Bello said.
“Our labor attachés there have a contingency plan which may have to be implemented in case the situation worsens. But, right now the situation is not critical but there is a cause to prepare for this plan,” he added.
Bello said there are around 240,000 documented OFWs in Qatar alone.
The Labor chief requested Congress to allocate PHP850 million for the possible repatriation expense and another PHP200 to PHP300 million for the reintegration.
“We cannot afford to leave them unassisted so we need to provide them financial and livelihood assistance, although we’re not discounting the possibility of giving them employment,” Bello said.
Bello said both the House and Senate have expressed “openness” to his proposal.
However, if the request will not be granted, the agency will have to rely on its own resources or seek assistance from the Office of the President, he noted.