PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte led the ceremonial opening of the Overseas Filipino
Bank (OFBank), fulfilling a campaign promise to provide remittance and financial services to overseas Filipino workers. “I made simple promises during the election. I am very happy that this one I have already fulfilled,” President Duterte said in his speech.
A migrant leader in Hong Kong, however, slammed the government for prioritizing something that was not a top concern among overseas Filipino workers. Duterte earlier issued Executive Order No. 44 approving the acquisition of the Philippine Postal Savings Bank by the LandBank of the Philippines. PPSB has since been converted into the OFBank. The OFBank, a wholly-owned savings bank subsidiary of Landbank, will offer wide range of products to OFWs such as deposits, loans and investments, as well as remittance and payment services.
Investment products such as Unit Investment Trust Funds will also be made available to OFWs, who can also invest in preferred shares to become co-owners of the bank. The OFBank can also be used by OFWs to pay for Social Security System premiums, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration contributions, PhilHealth, insurance premiums, credit cards, water bills, and housing and business loans, among others. It will also open a credit
facility for migrant Filipino workers and their beneficiaries for the construction of their homes and establishment of their own businesses.
Earlier, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III urged OFWs to invest in the OFBank, saying interested workers may opt to use their credit line with OWWA. “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,” he said.
Data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas showed OFW remittances rose by 4.2 percent to $23.06 billion from January to October last year compared to the $22.12 billion for the same period in 2016. But Eman Villanueva, BAYAN Hong Kong & Macau chairman, said the Duterte administration should have addressed the most pressing issues for OFWs. “Ang tingin namin ang OFBank is something na hindi naman priority para sa mga kinakaharap na mas malaking problema at isyu ng mga OFWs. Napakaraming unresolved concerns ng mga OFWs kagaya ng illegal recruitment, iyang overcharging, iyang OEC (overseas employment certificates) na magda-dalawang taon na at saka ang refund ng terminal fees,” Villanueva said. He added that the OFBank would be like any other bank that would profit from interests, deposits, and investments.
“Pera din naman ng OFWs ang gagamitin diyan para pagkakitaan ang mga OFWs so gisa lang sa sariling mantika. Hindi naman siya totoong OFW bank. Tinawag lang siyang OFW bank kasi mayroon siyang mga particular, I think, services that would cater to OFWs pero it’s just a bank. “It’s just like other banks. Kikita iyan sa remittance, kikita iyan sa deposits, at kikita iyan sa mga pautang kaya huwag nang palabasin na parang may something na napakagandang ginawa. Maraming pending na mga demands ng mga OFWs at iyon dapat ang sagutin at resolbahin nila,” he said.