PH vows all-out support for OFWs

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President Rodrigo Duterte

PRESIDENT  Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to exert all efforts to give further protection and assistance to overseas Filipino workers whom he hailed as the government’s partner for economic progress.

The President said the government will help returning OFWs who would want to start a business or work in the country.

“Whatever is doing brisk business in your place, we will try to find out how these can be given a boost, how we can help you by marketing these,” Duterte said.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said two major developments will benefit OFWs worldwide – the opening of the Overseas Filipino Bank (OFB) on January 26, 2018 and the release of the OFW iDOLE card.

“It will be a good 2018 for OFWs with our twin gifts to them. The government continues to do everything we can to assist them and extend more protection to them, including social protection,” Bello said in an interview.

Bello said to ensure that the OFB caters to the needs of overseas Filipinos, he decided to increase the number of OFW representation in the bank’s board of directors.

“Before, it was just one representative. But we decided to increase this to two so we will have one representing land-based OFWs and another for sea-based OFWs,” he said.

Duterte earlier signed Executive Order No. 44 approving the acquisition of government-owned Philippine Postal Savings Bank (Postbank) which will be converted into the OFB to efficiently deliver micro-finance and micro-insurance products and services for OFWs.

“Overseas-based Filipinos, who contribute to the country’s foreign exchange income, currency stability, employment, and overall economic growth through their remittances should be given provision of priority support for their growing financial needs,” the President said.

Bello urged OFWs to invest in the OFB, saying interested workers may opt to use their credit line with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

“Once the OFB is launched, you can borrow from your funds in OWWA to buy the shares of stocks so that you will become part owner. I want all OFWs to have shares in the banks and have their own credit facilities. Instead of applying for a loan from the Land Bank or other banks, you can do it with the OFB, your own bank,” he added.

Bello said the iDOLE card, which will replace the Overseas Employment Certificate, will soon be expanded to become a one-stop-shop card for OFWs.

“Soon, they can use the iDOLE card for their SSS, Philhealth and Pag-IBIG transactions,” Bello said.

For his part, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano said the new guidelines on the use of the P1-billion fund for distressed OFWs will ensure that the department is able to more effectively respond to their needs.

Cayetano had ordered a review and revision of the guidelines after the President announced the budget augmentation for the DFA “to allow more flexibility in their disbursement, to expand the scope of the services covered and to be more responsive to the needs of our distressed kababayans abroad.”

“The rationale behind the revised guidelines is for us to be able to help as many and as much without sacrificing the quality of our service. The Legal Assistance Funds may be availed of by a distressed overseas Filipino who is unable to engage the services of private counsel, and who is in a country where there is no system of legal aid or public defenders, or where there is no access to counsel de officio, or any lawyer provided by the foreign host government,” Cayetano said.

The Assistance To Nationals funds, on the other hand, will be used to cover welfare assistance and repatriation of distressed, sick and deceased Filipinos abroad. It also includes the cost of cremation or embalming, transport of remains to the Philippines and burial assistance.

DFA data showed that in 2016, at least 11,554 Filipinos were assisted through the ATN Funds.

 

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