MANILA - Thousands of Filipino migrant workers have returned to the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among them is IT solutions specialist Ruel Bermudez.
Bermudez left the country in August 2019 to grab a job opportunity in Cambodia. But the pandemic has caused his company to lay off workers and make salary cuts.
"We were laid off and I asked to be repatriated back here sa Pilipinas. Papunta pa lang dito from Cambodia, ang nasa isip ko is 'yung uncertainty na kakaharapin namin. Even here sa Philippines, may mga company na nag-close at nag-cut ng tao."
To help OFWs like Bermudez, the Department of Science and Technology launched a program called "Innovations for Filipinos Working Distantly from the Philippines" or iFWD PH.
The program seeks to provide support and opportunities for OFWs and their families to establish technology-based enterprises in the country.
Applicants will undergo several months of training and seminars through webinars. This will be done with no expense.
Other entrepreneurs will also be invited to mentor and share their experiences.
Those that will be able to complete the training will be given financial assistance to purchase the necessary equipment.
"Yung kakahayan nila, yung karunungan nila ng pagne-negosyo ay tuturuan natin sila nung mga 'yun. 'Yung basic business knowledge, 'yung mga tungkol sa finance, tungkol sa mga legal requirement, taxation, mga legal documents," DOST-National Capital Region director Jose Pantalinjug III explained.
Bermudez hopes to be able to revive their small IT Solutions company with the help of iFWD PH.
"We need someone or an organization na makatulong sa amin na makap-move forward, maka establish at magkaroon ng koneksyon sa negosyo," he said.
"Kasi pag-uwi namin dito kailangan 'yung hindi na kami dapat umasa sa mga trabaho pa or employer kasi 'yun nga malaki problema dito sa Pilipinas.
"Kailangan maturuan kaming OFW na magkaroon ng entrepreneurial or techno-perineurial skills and mindset para ma-achieve yung isang negosyo," he added.
Pantalinjug said they want repatriated OFWs to have hope that a program will be launched for them to stay in the country and have a livelihood with their families.
"Ang gusto namin sa mga OFW na na-repatriated ay magkaroon sila ng pag-asa na mayroong programa para sa kanila para sila mag-stay nalang dito sa atin at dito na manirahan at maghanap buhay kasama ng kanilang pamilya," he said.
For Bermudez, knowing that there are programs readily available to help and support repatriated OFWs lessens the stress of having to start their lives again from the ground up.
Those interested to join the program can get in touch with DOST through Facebook account DOST National Capital Region or send an email to email@example.com.