THE exodus of overseas Filipino workers leaving their employment abroad or being displaced because of the pandemic is one major source of headache for the government, which still battling the surging cases of COVID-19 in the country.
A total of 569,462 OFWs had been repatriated last year and more than 100,000 OFWs are expected to be returning home in the coming months. This is not a small number. OFWs support their families back in the Philippines. With no work, these returning OFWs are feared to add more socio-economic problems in the country.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is extending livelihood assistance to OFWs through collateral-free capital of up to ₱100,000 for them to start a business. OFWs are encouraged to avail of this loan assistance from the SB Corp., the micro financing arm of the DTI.
Recently, the government has also launched the “Agri Negosyo Para sa OFWs,” a project of the Department of Agriculture and the DTI.
The project is being piloted in five regions — 1,3, 4-A, 6 and 7 where majority of the repatriated OFWs came from Cavite, Batangas, Bulacan, Laguna, Cebu, Iloilo, Rizal, Pangasinan and Pampanga.
The project aims to provide livelihood opportunities and source of income for returning OFWs. Secondly, the program aims to modernize the agricultural sector by strengthening the food value chain and ensure food security for the country.
This means that micro small and medium enterprises will be integrated from their agribusiness together with the industrial business.
For instance, the DTI has already distributed a total of 2,782 shared service facilities nationwide benefiting almost half a million beneficiaries that employed over 200,000 workers.
The DTI has also distributed more than 27,000 livelihood kits so OFWs can start with their livelihood projects.
The RAPID growth project with the Department of Science and Technology has also supported 78,000 farming households and improve the productivity and competitiveness of 1,000 plus micro small and medium enterprises.
The project provides value chain based and climate smart assistance and financing to agribased MSMEs in regions covered especially in Regions 8, 9 to 12.
There are various financing programs designed specifically for OFWs.
In this challenging time, everyone is expected to do its share, OFWs included. The government can only do so much.