Livelihood loan program for balikbayan OFWs eyed by OWWA

Published August 25, 2020, 4:33 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) is set to roll out next month a “group livelihood” assistance program for repatriated and returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) where up to P1 million in loans will be given to business venture proponents.

(MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac said during the Senate labor committee’s hearing on the issues affecting OFWs amid the COVID-19 pandemic Tuesday that loans ranging from P150,000 to P1 million would be granted to OFWs who would form groups for a business venture to help them cope from their displacement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the OWWA Board approved the program three weeks ago and that “we will roll this out in September.”

Cacdac said officials decided to grant the cash loans to groups as they found that group livelihoods will have a “better chance” of surviving and flourishing amid the pandemic.

“Kaya ang napagpasyahan ng OWWA Board ay encourage ng group livelihood program lalo na sa panahon ng pandemya sir, baka mas matibay ang negosyo kung grupo po sila (That’s why the OWWA Board decided to encourage the group livelihood especially in this time of pandemic, because the business will be stronger if they build it in groups),” Cacdac said when asked by Senator Ronald dela Rosa to elaborate.

“So kailangan mahikayat yong mga kababayan natin, para di sila ma-discourage, dahil group, may pag-asa pa rin naman po, magsama-sama sila, at maa-achieve din ‘yong objective nila (we should encourage our countrymen to form groups, there is still hope when they band together, and they could still achieve their individual objectives),” he continued.

Cacdac did not elaborate further on the specifics of the program during the hearing. He has yet to respond as of writing to queries as to the qualifications and requirements for OFWs to avail of the grant.

Senator Joel Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, welcomed the development as he asked OWWA and the Department of Labor and Employment to expand its assistance for displaced migrant workers.

The said group livelihood assistance plan is on top of the OWWA’s “Balik Pinas! Balik Hanapbuhay!” Program, wherein a maximum of P20,000 cash grant is given to returning member-OFWs as start-up or additional capital for their livelihood project.

Cacdac said 70 percent of the beneficiaries of the Balik Hanapbuhay program have committed to invest the cash grant to businesses, but admitted that the agency does not have data on the success rate of the livelihood projects.

“I will also admit na hindi tayo sigurado whether or not nag-prosper ‘yong negosyo na ‘yon,” he responded to Sen. Nancy Binay, who expressed concern over the OWWA’s lack of data and the possibility that the money being distributed only goes to waste.

“Siguro baka magandang pag-aralan o bigyan ng pondo para makita talaga natin kung nagiging sulit ba kung itong pagbibigay ng ganitong klaseng pondo (Maybe we should study or fund the study to look into whether or not this kind of assistance is worth it). Kasi kung walang ganong pag-aaral parang nagtatapon lang tayo ng P10,000 or P20,000 doon sa mga binibigyan natin (Because if we do not have such a study, it’s like we are only wasting P10,000 or P20,000 to those we are giving it to),” Binay raised.

“At parang lumalabas na walang follow-thourgh pag dating doon sa livelihood programs natin (And it appears that there is no follow-through in the livelihood programs the weare implementing),” she also told OWWA.

Sen. Imee Marcos also proposed to the labor agencies to diversify its programs for returning OFWs as she noted that not all of them are capable to start businesses. She said the government should help them transition to local employment.

The DOLE said it is still preparing its database on the returning OFWs and their competencies and skills to help them return to the local labor market.

Villanueva discovered that the P29.87-million 2020 funds for the reintegration of displaced OFWs under the DOLE’S National Reintegration Center For OFWs has yet to be disbursed as of June 22 this year.

 
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