Outreach efforts ramped up to help Filipino expats hit by Covid-19

Several thousand Filipino expatriate workers either furloughed or let go by their employers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in late March are being offered “relief supplies” courtesy of a string of charity and volunteer organisations led by Filipino Community Social Club (FILCOSOC), the official representative organisation of the Philippine community in the Sultanate.

According to Eng Roland Leaño (pictured), FILCOSOC Chairman, more than 1,000 Filipinos in Muscat Governorate – all casualties of a ‘No Work No Pay’ system employed by numerous establishments left shuttered in the wake of the pandemic – have received foodstuff packages as relief aid in recent weeks.

“We are now scrambling to cover a backlog that keeps growing by the day as more and more Filipinos affected by the crisis reach out to us for assistance,” said Leaño. “Our outreach efforts are being extended to cover Filipinos residing in other parts of the country, and of late, we have been getting some support from other local charities to help with the distribution of relief supplies.”

Speaking to the Observer, Leaño said the Social Club has been inundated with appeals for assistance since the crisis began in March. The impact has been particularly bad for Filipinos working in the foodservice, hotel, retail, and cleaning service sectors, all of which have been severely affected by the crisis. Every day, we receive on average between 300 – 400 appeals for assistance, mainly from those working in restaurants, coffee shops, school nannies, cleaning staff, and in other service sectors. Many of them have been told to stay at home with no pay or have to adjust this period against their annual leave, payment for which may only happen once their establishments reopen and business resumes.”

Helping support FILCOSOC with the funding of its outreach is the Philippine Overseas Labour Office – Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (POLO-OWWA), represented by the Philippines Embassy. Dozens of volunteers have been offering their time and other resources with the packaging of the food supplies, as well as dropping off and delivering them to grateful recipients.

“We have a great team of people coordinating this relief effort. Coverage outside Muscat is being handled by a team headed by FILCOSOC Vice-Chairperson Dr. Annie Bantegan, while the outreach effort in Dhofar Governorate is being coordinated by FILCOSOC Secretary Rosalie Regalado. Also supporting the wider campaign are OWWA Welfare Officer Aurea Rivero and POLO Labour Attache Gregorio Abalos Jr.”

According to Leaño, the Philippine government itself has now stepped in to support its expatriate nationals impacted by the pandemic. “Around 3,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Oman will receive payouts of $200 each as assistance under the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Programme announced by the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE).

They are among an estimated 150,000 OFWs from around the world who will receive this one-time payment from the Philippine government. Since the cut-off was announced for applications for this assistance, we have received a further 3,000 more requests from OFWs in Oman, and we’re hopeful that Manila will support them as well,” he added.