The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Sunday said it needed an additional P2.5 billion to fund a third tranche of its financial assistance program for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

In a statement, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said 551,606 OFWs had applied for cash aid so far.

“The fund released to us is fast depleting. So far, our offices approved the requests of 224,756 OFWs, 128,348 of whom are still locked down or stranded in their countries of work,” he said.

DOLE was given P2.5 billion in two tranches to fund the Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) cash assistance program.

OFWs can receive $200 or P10,000 in emergency aid should they apply and be given approval by the Overseas Workers Welfare Association.

Financing for the program’s first two tranches came from the emergency fund under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which lapsed on June 24.

DOLE said that it planned to extend aid to an additional 250,000 OFWs in the third tranche.

Bello expressed optimism that President Duterte would grant the additional AKAP funding.

“Our OFWs are very dear to our President… [N]apakalaking bagay kung higit na marami sa ating mga kababayan ang mabibigyan natin ng tulong,” he said. John Ezekiel J. Hirro