Gov't pledges construction jobs to thousands of returning OFWs

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(FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 26) – Thousands of returning overseas Filipino workers will be offered construction jobs for the government's infrastructure projects, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Tuesday. 

"Dahil mananatili pa rin ang 'Build, Build, Build' initiative ng ating gobyerno, magkakaroon po tayo ng job fair specially targeting the OFWs dahil kailangan po natin sila ngayong narito na sa bayan natin sila dahil kulang na kulang po talaga ang ating mga construction workers dahil marami nga po ay nagsi-abroad na," Roque said during his regular media briefing.

[Translation: Because the government's 'Build, Build, Build' push continues, we will hold a job fair targeting OFWs because we need them now that they are home. We are really lacking construction workers because a lot of them went to work abroad.]

Roque said the Cabinet is still finalizing the list of infrastructure projects that will remain priorities despite the local outbreak. However, he said six projects including the construction of the Skyway Stage 3 project and the connector road for the North and South Luzon Expressways have resumed heavy works this month.

Over 24,000 Filipino workers have flown home so far. Data from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration showed that 11,848 workers have returned to their hometowns as of Monday.

President Rodrigo Duterte gave authorities a week to send these OFWs to their hometowns. Roque said residents of Luzon are either being sent through buses, while those from Visayas and Mindanao are ferried through chartered flights or ships.

READ: DILG to issue show cause order vs. LGUs refusing to accept returning OFWs

COVID-19 response chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said last week that up to 500,000 workers may return to the Philippines this year, as they find themselves jobless due to the global pandemic.

The government will also seek to provide loans so that they can start their own businesses here, Roque said, hoping they can make enough to sustain their needs.

He said the additional daily testing capacity, which has hit 32,100 as of May 20, will be used to test the thousands more OFWs expected to return in the coming weeks.

Roque admitted that the economy will take a hit from the expected drop in OFW remittances, which have long been fueling local household spending as migrant workers send money to buy their families' needs and wants. However, Roque said the inherent strength of the domestic economy could soften the blow.

OFWs remitted $33.5 billion to the Philippines in 2019, equivalent to ₱1.7 trillion according to central bank data.