SERVICE. Wearing protective suits, staff of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Region 10 assist returning overseas Filipino Workers at the Laguindingan International Airport, Misamis Oriental on Friday (Nov. 19, 2021). From January to November this year, the agency has already repatriated 27,420, all expenses paid. (Photo courtesy of OWWA-10)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Region 10 (OWWA-10) has facilitated the repatriation of 27,420 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to their hometowns in Northern Mindanao this year.

Eugene Mesias, OWWA's Programs and Services Division officer-in-charge, said the data were gathered from January to November 8 this year.

"There were 27,117 OFWs repatriated through sweeper flights and 303 through Malasakit (concern) voyages," he said during Saturday night's CORDS X podcast hosted by Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security Region 10 (CORDS-10) and Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.

Last year, OWWA-10 brought home 26,826 OFWs, including those living outside Northern Mindanao, according to Mesias.

He emphasized that even before the Covid-19 pandemic, OWWA has been helping distressed OFWs return to their hometowns in coordination with welfare officers, labor attaches, and local recruitment agencies that deployed them.

All travel expenses were covered by the agency, including additional food, health, and livelihood assistance.

OWWA-10 also implemented reintegration programs to aid displaced OFWs who experienced maltreatment, sexual harassment, illegal recruitment, and those affected by political instability.

A one-time cash assistance was likewise granted under the "Balik Pilipinas, Balik Hanapbuhay" (Return to the Philippines, Return to Work).

"We prioritize those who do not want to go back abroad. If he or she is a member of OWWA, at least within three years upon going home without ending his or her contract, he or she may be able to avail the assistance," Mesias said.

There are also the "Balik Bayani (Returning Heroes)" awards and Livelihood Enhancement Kit in partnership with a multinational beverage company.

OWWA turned over a food and retail store to one of the beneficiaries, Christine Torres from Medina, Misamis Oriental, on November 12.

Since Torres had already gone back to work abroad, her sister, Noime, stood on her behalf in the opening of the store.

On November 17, the Entrepreneurial Development Training was conducted for OFW organizations in Bukidnon, specifically on Business Plan Preparation, conducted by Richie James Uy, focal person on reintegration programs. (PNA)