By Macon Ramos-Araneta | Manila Standard Today
Vice presidential candidate Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos said the national government should coordinate with local government executives to form a plan to avert a possible crisis when some 1.5 million overseas Filipinos in the Middle East lose their jobs due to the drop in oil prices.
He proposed the action as 1.5 million Filipinos who will be rendered jobless in Saudi Arabia will add tremendously to the already huge number of domestically unemployed once they return home and no local employments will be available.
He said LGU officials can convince investors to open or expand its human resource requirements and hire even temporarily jobless OFWs.
“Local officials can talk to owners or operators of business establishments in their respective jurisdictions to help by employing, at the very least temporarily, OFWs that have returned because they lost their jobs abroad. Our OFWs are skilled and I’m sure they will fit in easily,” he said.
But Marcos admitted this is only “first aid” and the government should still come up with a genuine solution.
He said since Ilocos Norte, his home province, has the most number of families that have relatives or friends working abroad, local officials should start negotiating with the business community in the province to assist displaced Ilocano OFWs.
Senator Sonny Angara believes the passage of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration bill will boost the government’s capacity to assist migrant workers who lost their jobs.
“The OWWA should now be more prepared and equipped to assist OFWs who lost their jobs and were forced to come home,” he said.
“We must help them get back on their feet and start anew here in their home country,” added Angara, acting chairman of the Senate labor committee and sponsor of the OWWA bill.
Under the proposed measure, which was recently ratified by both of houses of Congress and soon to be signed into law by the President, the OWWA is declared as a national government agency thus the entire OWWA Fund, which is sourced through the contributions of its members, should be used primarily for OFW services and programs.
The bill also identifies the reintegration of OFWs as one of the core programs of OWWA, mandating that not less than 10 percent of the total collection will be used for the reintegration program every year.
The program includes trainings on financial literacy, entrepreneurial development, techno-skills, business counseling as well as job referrals for both local and overseas employment.
The OWWA, in cooperation with the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines, also provides a special loan facility intended to support enterprise development where an OFW-member or their legal dependent can avail of a loanable amount of P300,000.00 to P2 million.
Moreover, under the OWWA’s “Balik-Pinas, Balik Hanapbuhay” program, displaced or distressed workers can avail of either starter kits worth P7,500 or a livelihood assistance of P10,000.
From 2010 to 2015, the OWWA’s reintegration program has assisted nearly 5,000 returning OFWs and released approximately P1 billion in loans for livelihood support.
“Aside from financial support, retrenched OFWs may also undergo psycho-social counseling, stress debriefing and values reorientation given the difficulties they endured just so they can continue providing for their families back home,” Angara said.
The senator, however, stressed that on top of the reintegration program, the government should generate more decent, higher-paying jobs for our countrymen to encourage them to stay and work in the Philippines.
“It should be easier for returning OFWs to secure alternative employment and other sources of livelihood so as to reintegrate productively into the mainstream society.”