OF TREES AND FOREST
By FORMER SENATE PRESIDENT MANNY VILLAR
Last November 12, 2019, the Villar SIPAG Foundation hosted the 9th OFW & Family Summit at the World Trade Center in Pasay City. It was attended by thousands of overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and their families. I was amazed at the success of the summit even on its 9th year.
This is evidence I think, that our OFWs are more than willing to learn the knowledge and skills necessary in order to avoid having to go abroad and leave their families in order to earn and provide for their loved ones.
We, at the Villar SIPAG Foundation have been convening this annual event with the objective of providing viable livelihood or business opportunities for OFWs. This way they can put to good use the money they earned abroad and not just let it go to waste.
According to a study by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), 66% of OFWs were able to save less than 25 percent of the total amount received and only a measly 3.8% apportion them for investments. This is something that we need to change if we want our OFWs to come home and stay home.
The Summit, as we envisioned it years ago, was intended to improve the financial and entrepreneurial skills of our OFWs. This means that they need to be taught how to make sure that the money they earn go to something that will grow and will sustain them for a long time.
From the time I sold my first house to an OFW decades ago, I have always made it my advocacy to protect the welfare of Filipinos working overseas. I felt then, as I do still now, that that is the least we can do for their sacrifices and the contributions they make to our country.
The summit was designed to encourage our OFWs to become their own bosses instead of working for foreign bosses and exposing themselves to abuse. For the 9th OFW Summit, we gathered business owners, franchise holders, representatives of government agencies and other organizations to help OFWs in facilitating their livelihood or business start-ups.
Among of the highlights of the summit were the booths set up by various government agencies where OFWs could ask questions and seek guidance on issues affecting them.
I am certain that the experts we invited to talk about Financial Literacy, Business Start Ups/Trends and OFWs Turned Successful Entrepreneurs were able to inspire and teach our OFWs into becoming the next successful entrepreneurs.
I thought that this year’s theme summed it all up: “Kabuhayan sa Sariling Bayan.” We need the talents and hard work of Filipinos here in our country. Tayo dapat ang nakikinabang sa talento at galing ng Pinoy. I understand of course the decision of many of our kababayans to seek opportunities abroad. The ultimate sacrifice they make is both heartbreaking and admirable.
But while we endeavor to protect their welfare and their rights while abroad, we should not make labor migration a continuing policy. We need ensure that fewer and fewer Filipinos will be making that decision to leave the country just to get a decent job. I believe that with the economy performing so well under the Duterte administration, we can lay the groundwork for the return of our OFWs and prevent the influx of our workers to other countries.
And the best way to nurture them here at home is to provide them the tools to start their own businesses. This way, not only are we addressing the OFW issues; we are also creating jobs for our people and contributing to the sustainability of our economic growth.
Thank you to all those who made the 9th OFW Summit a success!