COMING in two separate batches, a total of 829 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) arrived in the country from Libya on Saturday and early today, bringing with them their own tales of relief, confusion and a great sense of loss.
Newly named Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration Chief Rebecca Calzado said the bulk of 419 migrant workers from Libya arrived yesterday, while the next batch of 369 was to arrive at 3:30 a.m. today.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said they expect more OFWs to arrive in the coming days, especially those who were fetched by a chartered ship through a government initiated repatriation program.
Majority of those who came home yesterday however admitted that had they been given a choice, they would have preferred to stay in Libya until the conflict subsided. Many of them lamented that they may not find jobs in the Philippines.
“We might be safe here but we do not have enough money to spend for the needs of our families” one of them said.
As of August 14, 2014, the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) recorded 1,960 repatriates from Libya.
Labor officials however allayed their fears saying that the government has lined-up a number of programs for the reintegration of displaced workers, among them the Assist WELL Program.
Calzado said OWWA’s welfare regional offices have extended other services, including the Balik-Pinas, Balik-Hanapbuhay Program; 2B Reintegration Program; NRCO Livelihood Assistance; OWWA scholarships training and assistance, job referrals as well as Tesda referrals.
She however stressed that only those who returned to the country when the mandatory repatriation was declared by the Department of Foreign Affairs DFA can avail of the programs.
“They can get the said benefit in the OWWA regional offices where they reside,” she said.
In June this year, the DFA raised alert level 3 or the voluntary mandatory repatriation of thousands of Filipino workers in Libya because of the escalating civil unrest there.
At the onset of the alert crisis level 4, the OWWA repatriation team was stationed at the airport to assist OFWs from Libya every day, including holidays, Saturdays and Sundays.
In the meantime, beneficiaries of the one-time cash Financial Relief Assistance Program (FRAP) has totaled to 954 or an exposure of P9,540,000.
Based on OWWA records, there were already 242 OFWs who availed of the temporary shelter/accommodation and 769 were provided with transportation expenses.