Amid tensions in the Middle East, Senator Win Gatchalian has urged the government to help turn displaced and returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) into local “entrepinoys” by extending to them entrepreneurial programs.
Latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) show there are around 1.26 million Filipinos who are in the Middle East and may be affected in the event that the conflict between the United States and Iran spills over the entire region. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported that there are 1,190 documented and 450 undocumented Filipino workers in Iraq. The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said that there are approximately 1,300 Filipinos in Iran.
Gatchalian said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and OWWA should encourage and assist repatriated Filipinos to set up their own micro, small or medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) through OWWA’s OFW Enterprise Development and Loan Program (OFW-EDLP). The said program entitles active and non-active OWWA members to avail a minimum of ₱100,000 up to a maximum of ₱2 million worth of loans.
Gatchalian also took note of the ‘Balik-Pinas! Balik-Hanapbuhay Program’ under OWWA’s Reintegration Program which provides immediate relief to active or non-active members who were displaced from their jobs due to war and political conflicts in host countries.
“Instead of focusing only on where to send our displaced OFWs, we should also give them an alternative to overseas employment, one of which is helping them become entrepreneurs in their own country,” Gatchalian said.
“When we help our OFWs start their own businesses, we are not only helping them get a good and decent livelihood in their own country, they can also provide job opportunities for other Filipinos as well,” he added.