LEBANON - Humorous anecdotes on OFW life elicited much laughter from attendees of the reintegration program seminar. Despite this, the Philippine embassy's labor office sought to impress the seriousness of good financial planning.
The seminar sought to educate OFWs on how to retain the most of their earnings abroad through wise consumption, disciplined saving, investments and availing of several livelihood development programs from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
The seminar highlighted the P2 billion OFW Reintegration Program. Implemented by DOLE through The National Reintegration Center for OFWs, the program provides loans from P300,000 to P2 million to OFW returnees and their dependents. Loan applicants must submit a business proposal to be approved by the Development Bank of the Philippines or the Land Bank of the Philippines.
"Natutuwa ako na nag–attend ako ng seminar," said OFW Nenita Canlas, who plans to start a mini–grocery through the reintegration program. "Nakakatulong sa 'tin. Kung halimbawa may mangyari dito, at least, meron tayong mapupuntahan."
OFW Donna De Mesa agreed: "Napakaganda po ng offer ng reintegration program kasi hindi naman po habang-buhay tayo'y nasa ibang bansa para kumita. At least, makakaasa ka pa rin sa government natin na sila'y handang tumulong kahit wala ka na sa ibang bansa."
A smaller–scale livelihood project is DOLE's Balik Pinay, Balik Hanapbuhay program for women OFWs. Starter kits and training are provided for five livelihood categories: Health and Wellness (e.g., cosmetology), House Repairs (e.g., electrical servicing), Food Processing (e.g., food and beverage preparation), Personal Accessories Repairs and Maintenance (e.g., cellular phone repairs) and Handicraft (e.g., souvenir items).
OFWs may also invest their earnings abroad in the DOLE–DA (Department of Agriculture) Agri–Business Partnership Program for OFWs. OFWs may choose from 37 agribusiness modules, such as agri–crops, livestock production, processed fruits and meat processing. The ready–to–implement modules contain detailed information on merchandise, capital, business location, expenditures and investment return. The program also includes free technical service from DA agricultural experts.
Labor Attaché Bulyok Nilong said this program is for all OFWs and their families. "This is for documented or undocumented OFWs. Kahit isang araw pa lang po sila sa abroad at nagkaproblema na sila at napauwi, qualified na po sila mag–avail ng reintegration program ng DOLE."
OWWA members, on the other hand, may avail of more services, such as disability and burial benefits, life insurance and various scholarships for dependents.
Reintegration program seminars are being held by Philippine Overseas Labor Offices across the world and have reached even OFWs in Syria, such as repatriate Araceli Reyes, who opted for an unusual vocation.
"Gusto ko 'yong welding. Gusto ko i–grab ['yong opportunity na matutunan 'yon] kasi interesado ako do'n."
She is also interested in OWWA's scholarship program for her children.
OFWs need only visit the nearest regional office of DOLE or OWWA.
"Ipakita lang po nila ang kanilang evidence na OFW po sila—their passport, their contract, any documents," Nilong said.