(Photo courtesy of DOLE Cordillera)

MANILA – A total of 16,526 individuals have benefited from the PHP128.9 million worth of financial assistance released by the government in areas affected by the magnitude 7 earthquake in Northern Luzon last July 27, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reported on Thursday.

In a statement, Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma said nearly half of the funds equivalent to PHP57 million was coursed through the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa ating Disadvantaged/Distressed Workers or TUPAD program.

TUPAD is a cash-for-work program to aid displaced workers where they are given jobs for a minimum of 10 days and a maximum of 90 days.

They will be paid based on the prevailing minimum wage in the region.

“The remaining part of the fund went to financing our continuing programs such as skills training, government internship program, livelihood, and AKAP (Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong) program,” the DOLE chief added.

AKAP is a one-time financial aid given to returning overseas Filipino workers affected by a crisis.

Areas covered by the aid program include the Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

Laguesma noted that Ilocos Region got the highest amount of assistance worth more than PHP72 million which benefited 7,300 victims while CAR, where the earthquake's epicenter Abra is located, received over PHP55 million to support 9,190 residents.

On the other hand, he said more than PHP200,000 in assistance was given to Cagayan Valley with 36 beneficiaries.

The DOLE is continuously monitoring developments in Northern Luzon to determine the response it can deliver to the needy provinces.

“Our instruction from the President is very clear and that is to help our countrymen recover from the tragedy. We are sending help to the affected regions as fast as we can,” Laguesma said.

Among the continuing programs are the joint training-cum-production and emergency employment program of the DOLE and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority for the pool of workers to do rehabilitation works on damaged infrastructure and heritage structures. (PNA)