labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday urged overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who left their agricultural lands behind when they decided to pursue “greener pastures” to come back home after finishing their contracts and pursue agriculture and related enterprises as alternative source of income to overseas employment.
"Returning OFWs, OFWs who had been displaced, or OFWs who had become victims of abuse should not be afraid to come home to the Philippines, particularly if they have idle farmlands. Their lands are a source of income security," said Baldoz.
“You should not be worried. You can develop your farms through organic farming, or start your own agribusiness and expand it with the assistance of the National Reintegration Center for OFWs through its Balik-Pinay, Balik-Hanapbuhay program or through a loan from the P2 billion national reintegration loan fund,” Baldoz added.
Baldoz made the declaration after receiving the report of Philippine Labor Attache to Hong Kong Manuel Roldan about the recent visit of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to met with the Filipino community in Hongkong.
According to Roldan, Secretary Alcala attended a seminar on organic farming and chicken-and rabbit-raising conducted by Dr. Rey Itchon of the Spread Organic Agriculture in the Philippines (SOAP) for Hong Kong OFWs.
The seminar, attended by 100 OFWs, is a part of the regular agricultural livelihood training that members of the Agricultural Livelihood Program (ALP) conduct every Sunday at the Filipino Workers Resource Center.
In his report, Roldan said Secretary Alcala committed to support efforts in building the capacities of Hong Kong OFWs to engage in agricultural enterprises after they have shown interest and enthusiasm in tilling and developing their lands using the knowledge and skills they acquired from the seminar.
"Secretary Alcala also looked at the possibility of introducing the same seminar in other OFW destinations," Roldan said.
Baldoz expressed interest in this development, saying that OFWs who come home to the Philippines with skills and knowledge acquired from the seminar will be supported with a financial grant coming from the NRCO.
"Those who want to come back and cultivate the land they left behind will never have to lose sleep on how they can support the needs of their families again. Aside from the financial assistance, they will also receive business counseling, technical and marketing assistance, and skills training to ensure the success of their business. We will even provide them with other support, such as productivity improvement, after they have started their businesses,” Baldoz said.
Under the Balik-Pinay, Balik-Hanapbuhay Program, the National Reintegration Center for OFWs of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, an attached agency of the DOLE, provides livelihood starter kits and business development assistance to returning OFWs.
On the other hand, loans ranging from a minimum of P300,000 to a maximum of P2 million are provided to OFWs who wants to engage in small business under the P2 billion national reintegration loan fund. The loan has a maximum repayment period of seven years and a grace period of two years, with 7.5 percent per year and can be used for working capital or for the acquisition of fixed assets.
“We all know how hard it is to work far from your loved ones and we are very much aware of the social costs of migration. The government, through the National Reintegration Center for OFWs, does not stop in thinking of ways on how we can provide decent jobs and livelihood for every Filipino so that working abroad will just be an option,” Baldoz said.