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LGUs Tapped to Teach OFWs on Handling Funds

By Maricar Cinco (Inquirer Southern Luzon) First Posted 21:48:00 11/01/2009

Saving is not as simple as dropping centavos into a piggy bank, as overseas Filipino workers know full well.

“The OFW (overseas Filipino worker) leaves the country to earn with a promise to return after some time. But this does not happen. He or she needs to stay longer abroad because the ones left here splurge the remittances (hence) there are no savings. And worse, (it could result in) disintegration of the families,” says Mai Añonuevo, executive director of the Atikha Overseas Workers and Communities Initiative.

This is why Atikha, a Laguna-based nongovernment organization, has partnered with the Department of Labor and Employment and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to encourage local government units, schools, cooperatives and banks to put up migration centers in Batangas, Cavite and Laguna – the top three senders of Filipino migrants abroad.

One-stop centers

The migration centers at the municipal levels are meant to be one-stop centers linking the OFWs and their families.

Añonuevo said that at these centers, the OFW and the family will hopefully learn about saving and online budgeting. These will also link the migrant and the family, as well as legitimate cooperatives, banks and potential business ventures.

The centers will also make sure that the recruitment agencies and the employers abroad are authentic.

There are about 8.9 million of Filipino migrants, about 97 percent of whom have expressed their desire to return, Añonuevo said during the financial literacy training here held late last month.


“We interviewed this migrant returnee from Italy who said that after 20 years, she felt that she had just become a cabinet, a fixture in her home without a relationship with her family. And we don’t want that kind of life story to happen to our migrants,” said Añonuevo.

Aside from marital breakups, prolonged separation has also resulted in incestuous and illicit affairs in the migrant communities.

“It’s not only financial but also a moral (setback) and it’s not worth (the sacrifice),” Añonuevo said.
What’s worse, some end up without having any money even after long years abroad.

Everybody’s role

An average OFW in European countries earns about P50,000 to P60,000 a month, and about P25,000 to P30,000 in Hong Kong and Asian countries.

Migrants would usually work for three to five employers and share their rented apartment with other OFWs to cover their expenses, said Carmelita Dimzon, administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

“They would even cut down their meals to be able to send more to their families,” she added.

The continuing rise of OFW deployment and influx of remittances ‘shielded’ the Philippine economy from the global financial meltdown, said Ricardo Casco, IOM labor migration specialist.

“The behavior of remittance is that whenever there is a crisis, the more the OFW tightens his belt and sends more money here,” he added.

Añonuevo noted, however, that the OFW does not know how the money is being spent here.

“(On the other hand) the families left also do not recognize the migrants’ sacrifices abroad,” she said.

Añonuevo said families splurging the remittances, or OFWs falling victims to wrong business investments, greatly affect migration.

“It’s critical to teach both the OFW and the family. Some of our success stories are those families, who before the OFW leaves, already have this common goal – to earn and save and therefore will hasten the migrant’s return,” she said.

“It’s a formula of understanding the financial situation. It’s common among Filipinos to make sure everything’s paid first before they save. With this training, we teach them to put it as: income minus savings equals expenditures,” said Casco.

As to the percentage allotted for the savings, he said that would depend on the income and extent of financial obligations.

Casco said the Philippines was now being counted upon by the international community to advance its migration governance to a higher plane.

“We are already doing market development, employment procedures, workers’ assistance, legal mechanisms – it’s about time to display the benefits of migration going back to the Philippine society,” he said.

He said hard-earned money should lead to wealth and migrants deserve to enjoy it after all the long years of hard work and perseverance.

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