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OFW livelihood line

Define double whammy.jaja

It’s Filipino overseas workers going back o their homeland with no assured alternative employment, livelihood opportunities, or enough assistance to tide them over after losing their jobs abroad because of the global economic crisis spawned by the 2019 coronavirus disease pandemic.

This should not be the case.

Home should be a place where any citizen can go back to and no worry about job, livelihood, and other economic opportunities.

And so we share concern and fear of a very discerning lady lawmaker that OFWs falling victim to bogus investment schemes could result not only in the loss of their hard-earned savings but also billions in government loans to them going to waste.

Sen. Imee Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, urged the government to think beyond the employment facilitation portals it provides, saying these were not enough to address joblessness especially in rural areas where many OFWs have returned amid the Covid-19 padndemic.

“To save our OFWs from investment scams, the government needs to diversify livelihood opportunities for them. They have returned to remote rural areas which they left in the first place because of so few employment opportunities,” Marcos said.

She suggested the creation of a data base from which OFWs can choose possible business partners or co-investors among local micro, small and medium enterprises that have maintained a good track record and are ready to expand.

“The lack of financial literacy among OFWs has made them vulnerable to scammers. The sad truth is that often their most trusted relatives, friends, father confessors, and mayors scam their hard-earned savings. Not all OFWs are ready to start up their own business and become instant entrepreneurs,” Marcos explained.

“Partnering OFWs with accredited MSMEs will make the government’s loan programs truly viable. In tandem, both parties also have a greater chance of surviving and recovering financially amid the Covid-19 pandemic,” she added.

Amid the concerns for food security during the pandemic, she cited the “tremendous opportunities in agriculture,” noting that many OFWs who come from remote areas are at least familiar with farming.

“We need to make the transition and repatriation phase gentler, steadier and better regulated. We have seen too many tragic stories of hardworking OFWs squirreling away funds for years upon years and suddenly just blowing it all on a bad investment decision,” Marcos said.

The lady lawmaker has also proposed to double the credit assistance extended to OFWs even before they leave for their jobs abroad, from P50,000 to P100,000.

The “pre-departure loan” would help OFW families with their daily expenses and unforeseen emergencies, while waiting for the breadwinner’s salary remittance, Marcos said.

Earlier, the government has allotted over P12 billion to help Filipino workers here and abroad who were affected by Covid-19, the Department of Labor and Employment said.

Labor and Employment Sec.Silvestre Bello III said the funds were used in three major programs of the Duterte administration to assist formal and informal workers in the country as well as OFWs.

“For these programs, we have a total funding of P12.4 billion. Sourced from the DoLE 2020 regular budget, P4.8 billion; Bayanihan Act 1, P2.5 billion, and recently released repatriation funds of P5 billion.

The OFWs are very thankful, Mr. President because we didn’t ask for this fund but we were surprised when you gave us PHP5 billion for repatriation expenses,” Bello told President Duterte during an Inter-Agency Task Force meeting in Davao City.

He reported that under Covid-19 Adjustment Measures Program, the DoLE was able to provide financial assistance to a total of 662,213 formal sector workers with a budget of P3.3 billion.

Bello added that the funds for CAMP have been fully used in June.

“First major program of CAMP, it is a safety net that provides one-time financial assistance to the amount of PHP5,000 to workers in the formal sector where there is an employer-employee relationship regardless of course on the status of employment, regular, casual, contractual or even probationary,” he said.

Bello added that applicants for CAMP have reached 1.6 million from nearly 60,000 establishments.

“Close to 1 million workers have not been served, however, Mr. President. All CAMP applications have been shared to the Department of Finance and Social Security System for their small business wage subsidy program,” the DoLE chief said.

Out of this number, Bello said about 183,000 CAMP applicants have so far benefitted from the small business wage subsidy program of the DoF and SSS.