MANILA: The Philippine government has rolled out a 1 billion Philippine peso ($20.6 million) coronavirus cash assistance program for 33,000 college-level children of deceased or displaced overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“Because of the effect of the pandemic on the education of our children, we must help them with a tertiary education subsidy,” Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in a televised address on Monday evening. The cash aid will target dependents of displaced, non-returning, repatriated or deceased Filipino migrant workers.
Duterte said that under the program, the subsidy will be handed to one college beneficiary of a qualified OFW enrolled or intending to enroll in a state university, college or private learning institution recognized by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
“This is a project of the CHED and the United Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education, in collaboration with the Department of Labor and Employment,” Duterte said.
In May, Duterte asked schools to provide staggered or installment-based payment options for students, citing difficult situations faced by “hard-pressed” parents in the pandemic.
He also directed the state-run Land Bank of the Philippines to provide loans to students, especially those “who could not afford to pay their tuition at all.”
During Monday’s briefing, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that repatriation efforts are ongoing and that the government has brought home about 174,000 OFWs since April.
“We have stabilized the repatriation process and we now have an average of 1,500 OFWs being brought home daily,” Lorenzana said.
Among recent arrivals, he added, is a third group of bodies of OFWs from the Middle East, 62 of whom died from coronavirus-related illnesses.
It follows sustained efforts by the government to repatriate Filipinos, especially those who were forced to close down businesses during the pandemic.
With thousands of OFWs rendered jobless and forced to return home in the crisis, the Central Bank of the Philippines reported a significant drop in remittances last month.
“Personal remittances from OFWs amounted to $2.341 billion in May 2020, 19.2 percent lower than the $2.896 billion recorded in May 2019,” the Central Bank said, adding that it was “the second consecutive month that personal remittances posted a year-on-year contraction.”
Total remittances for the first five months of 2020 totaled $12.83 billion, a 6.4 percent decrease from the $13.707 billion recorded in the same period last year.
The US registered the highest share in overseas Filipino remittances at 39.4 percent for the January to May period. It was followed by Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Japan, UK, UAE, Canada, Hong Kong, Qatar and Taiwan.