Metro Manila, Philippines—40-year old Jessah Tabinas was an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) who went home to her family in Malabon for a vacation in 2020. Her supposed break from work became a permanent stay due to imposition of strict quarantine caused by COVID-19, which took effect on March 15, 2020––the same day of her supposed departure to KSA to resume her work as a household worker.

Due to this unforeseen event, Tabinas’ job contract in KSA was canceled, including expiration of other relevant papers. Uncertain about how to fund the education of her four children, she immediately sought the assistance of the Department of Labor and Employment – National Capital Region (DOLE-NCR) for any kind of assistance she could avail of.

Tabinas was among the beneficiaries who received assistance from the government through the labor department’s Abot Kamay Ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program.

Launched in 2020 through the DOLE Department Order 220-20, the AKAP program provides a one-time financial assistance as implemented by the DOLE and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) that aims to support the displaced documented OFWs who temporarily or permanently lost overseas employment upon the host-country’s declaration of the COVID-19 global outbreak.

With the financial grant amounting to P10,000, Tabinas was able to put up a small Bigasan (rice retailing) business in her house which, to date, still exists.

“I can now support my family without having to work overseas,” Tabinas said when asked how the assistance helped her.

Tabinas acknowledged the government employees from the National and Local Government, especially those who were hands-on in processing the assistance for the OFWs who lost their jobs during the pandemic.

“Sobrang hands-on ng mga empleyado sa gobyerno. Pagkatiwalaan natin ang mga ahensya ng pamahalaan dahil nakahanda silang tumulong,” she said.

END / Angelica Fresnoza