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OFWs Urged to Save for Unrest, Crises

Maricar Cinco (Philippine Daily Inquirer) Posted on March 16, 2011

OVERSEAS Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families should start saving a portion of their remittances so they won’t be caught off guard in case of war or crisis in foreign countries that could result in an emergency repatriation.

Mai Añonuevo, executive director of Atikha, a nongovernment organization based in San Pablo City, Laguna, said the OFWs should be planning for “strategic” financial needs.

Atikha, which conducts financial literacy programs among OFWs in Europe and the Middle East, says mishandling of remittances is a common problem that leaves a migrant worker empty-handed when he returns or suddenly loses his job.

“The OFW’s purpose for working abroad is to improve his family’s life in the Philippines. But instead of working just for five years, he extends his stay (abroad) to 10, 15 years because he feels he has not saved enough,” said Añonuevo.

She said Atikha teaches the families not to be too dependent on the remittances and not to live a lavish lifestyle.

She explained that after war erupted in Libya and another crisis looms in Saudi Arabia, where thousands of OFWs could face unemployment, government programs to help returning OFWs would not suffice.

If only the OFWs were able to save ahead they wouldn’t end up seeking livelihood packages from government offices or blaming the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) for lack of services, she added.


She said the OFWs’ only need to be guided where to invest their money as they prepare for “reintegration” with their families.

Añonuevo was interviewed here during Monday’s meeting of the Ad hoc Committee on Migration and Development (ACMD), a body formed under the Regional Development Council in the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangs, Rizal and Quezon) which is chaired by the National Economic and Development Authority.

The ACMD is tasked with coordinating the national government programs for OFWs and cascade them to the municipalities.

Representatives from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Department of Foreign Affairs, Owwa, and 12 other government agencies, and civic organizations came to the meeting.

Calabarzon was the first to form the migration committee as it is the region which sends the most OFWs (16.4 percent of the region’s population are migrant workers). The National Capital Region comes second followed by Central Luzon.

Owwa recently announced it is giving P10,000 worth of livelihood packages to returning OFWs from Libya.

In the Calabarzon, where at least 617 repatriated OFWs were based, Owwa has tapped Atikha to help the OFWs start anew after losing their jobs abroad.

Depending on the interest and the (amount of) savings of the OFWs, the NGO helps with ventures such as hog or egg raising or merienda stalls.

In 2010, $19 billion was generated from the foreign remittances, a report from the BSP said.

“Given the big number of OFWs and the hefty amount of remittances, migration has the potential to create local employment in the regions,” said Añonuevo.

“The migration phenomenon should be looked into, and not just be reactive when war erupts or when someone’s on the death row,” she said.

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