State lending for OFWs must be set up amid COVID-19

Published July 19, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Jun Concepcion

OFW Forum

Jun Concepcion

Janice de la Cruz, 36, a single mother, is getting set to leave the Philippines again for overseas work even if COVID-19 remains very much a health crisis across the world.

After two consecutive “tours of duty” over six years as a domestic helper in Hong Kong, Janice is again bracing for emotional pains of prolonged separation of at least two years from her three young children if she takes on a new job overseas.

She’s been offered a tempting “fly-now-pay-later” job as a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia and Dubai. Hong Kong, too, is another option. She hasn’t made up her mind on her next stop as an OFW. But all she knows is she has to work abroad again sooner than later, lest her children suffer aggravated hunger.

“I quit my job in Cavite as a factory worker because two of my children are sick and I need to care for them. Life is very harsh and even if I work long hours, there is no way I can support by myself all of my children’s needs. I need to work abroad again. There’s no other way but to become an OFW again,” she said.

Janice’s eldest is just 13 and is unable to help raise family income. Her children’s father has abandoned them and does not provide any financial support, forcing Janice to do the only thing that she knows best – to work overseas again as a domestic helper even if she’s now desperate for money.

Like Janice, Ethel, 42, is a single mom with four children in Nueva Ecija and a former domestic helper in Hong Kong. But unlike Janice, Ethel’s personal problems are more serious and nerve-wracking. While she struggles daily how to make ends meet, Ethel also worries about her 18-year-old juvenile son, her eldest, who is often drunk with friends and embroiled in gang fights.

Like Janice and Ethel, many other ex-OFWs are in financial bind, unable to find new jobs with adequate pay to support their children. Despite great odds posed by COVID-19, they are set to leave for abroad again — all for the sake of their children. But due to sore lack of funds to pay recruiter’s service fees, leaving for abroad again seems a herculean task for now.

The government can easily address and resolve their financial difficulties. All it takes is for government-owned and ultra profitable Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to set up an “innovative bridge financing scheme” and tap the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) for some assistance.

How will this low-interest lending scheme work? Fairly easy and straightforward.

Loan applicants, who are either OFWs or those with plans to work abroad, are to file no-collateral loan applications from P50,000 to P150,000 at any one of LBP’s 409 branches and 46 lending centers across the country. What will serve as collateral or security for “Pantawid Alalay sa OFW” loans?

Again, requirements should be made as easy and simple as possible.

This lending scheme should help OFWs in a very big way. An LBP Pantawid Alalay loan will enable a departing OFW to avoid falling into the debt trap often set by lenders which charge exorbitant interest rates on loans.
Low-interest LBP loans will also enable departing OFWs to avoid notorious “fly-now-pay-later” jobs in the Middle East which often make them vulnerable to abuses as they struggle to pay back the exorbitant fees charged by recruiters.

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