OWWA vows strict screening of applicants for OFW livelihood assistance program

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said today that they will be strict in screening applicants for its planned group livelihood assistance program for repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac said the government would have to make sure that the funds will be granted to groups of OFWs whose livelihood plans will adapt and succeed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cacdac recently announced in a Senate hearing that the OWWA will launch in September its group livelihood assistance project called "Tulong Puso" program.

In an interview with DZBB, he clarified that cash grants ranging from P150,000 to P1 million -- not loans as earlier reported -- will be given to OFWs groups to start a business and help them cope from their displacement.

"Katambal na rin niyan 'yong pag-jumpstart, kabahagi ang OFWs sa pagjumpstart ng ekonomiya natin (That comes with the efforts to jumpstart the economy, so that OFWs are part of jumpstarting our economy)," Cacdac said.

"Ito ay oportunidad para doon sa mga naapektuhan ng COVID-19 saka hindi na nakikita na sila'y makakabalik sa kanilang mga host countries (This is an opportunity for those affected by the COVID-19 and those who are longer seeing that they will be able to return to their host countries to start anew)," he added.

Cacdac said the OWWA Board of Trustees approved a P500-million budget for the Tulong Puso program.

"Since ito ay grant, napakahalaga po dito na hindi ho lahat ng aplikante ay mabibigyan. Hindi ho ito matter of entitlement o karapatan kasi ang talagang titignan talaga natin dito, kung sino yong mga merong talagang organisadong grupo, mayroong plano na nakikita nating pulido, maayos, at talagang pinapakita 'yong kanilang mga plano para sila'y magtagumpay (Since this is a grant, it is important to make sure that not all applicants will not easily be given the money. This is not a matter of entitlement or right because we would have to look who among the groups are really organized, who have comprehensive business plans that will show that they will really succeed)," Cacdac he said.

Business propositions that are not appropriate to the current health situation such as spa, salons, or fitness centers will not be allowed. The amount of the grant will depend on the capital requirement of the livelihood plan, he said.

To avail of the financial assistance, OFWs should form groups of at least five members, with 80 percent of them comprised of migrant workers who were affected by the pandemic.

He said the group should be registered either as a workers' association before the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), or a corporation before the Securities and Exchange Commission, or as a cooperative before the Cooperative Development Authority.

Aside from documents proving the identities as OFWs and their recent displacement, comprehensive business plans should also be submitted to the OWWA. The specific requirements will be published in the agency's website early next month.

The applicants would also have to undergo a seminar from the OWWA to brief them of existing business regulations as well as advice on how to manage and succeed with their businesses.

Cacdac said the OWWA is currently forming a group of volunteers, businessmen, and individuals to monitor the use of the cash grants. He added that they will also seek the help of the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Agriculture, as well as local government units in implementing the program.