On-site reintegration package for distressed OFWs
MANILA – Hundreds of wards at the Filipino Workers' Resource Centers will benefit from the on-site reintegration package of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) aimed at preparing them should they decide to go back home for good.
"We need to think out-of-the-box on how to fast track the reintegration of our distressed OFWs stranded in various FWRCs in the Middle East," said Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz.
Baldoz ordered the National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) to implement the Balik-Pinay Balik-Hanapbuhay Project.
"We need to assure them that when they come home for good, they will have something to live by in terms of income, which was the reason they went abroad in the first place. It would be best if the reintegration program is brought to them right on-site, in the FWRCs, while they are waiting for their exit visas and plane tickets for home," Baldoz said.
For the second half of 2013, Baldoz has set aside an initial P10 million for the project, specifically for 777 distressed OFWs sheltered at the FWRCs in Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Abu Dhabi and Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Bahrain; Kuwait; Lebanon; Syria; Libya; Qatar; Oman; and Jordan.
There are 101 distressed OFWs sheltered in six FWRCs in Asia, specifically, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Brunei, Taiwan, and South Korea, who Baldoz said will be assisted as well through the Balik-Pinay Balik Hanapbuhay Project.
All labor attaches in the Middle East are directed to coordinate with the Philippine Embassy and the host governments on how to facilitate and fast track the issuance of exit visas for the distressed OFWs who are mostly women. She also instructed them to orient the distressed OFWs on the Balik-Pinay Balik Hanapbuhay Project.
"You have to already issue certificates of eligibility to these OFWs after orientation and report immediately to the home office the types or nature of livelihood they would want to engage in once they are back so that the NRCO and the OWWA can prepare in advance the package of assistance that fits their needs and deliver this immediately upon their arrival," she said.
She also ordered the NRCO and the OWWA to further simplify the requirements for eligibility to the project, and called for close coordination with the POLO to ensure the project's success.
"If the OFWs are already familiar with their proposed income-generating enterprise, or are already skilled, remove the training requirement so they can immediately start earning. If they request a training, train them and provide them with all the technical assistance when they are already engaged in their income-generating activities," she said.
The DOLE chief expects the first batch of the 777 distressed OFWs in the Middle East to arrive in the Philippines by September.
Institutionalized under DOLE Administrative Order No. 77 Series of 2011, the project aims to assist returning OFWs through livelihood grants of P10,000. Priority is given to victims of illegal recruitment and trafficking, and other distressed and displaced household service workers.
Under the Balik-Pinay, Balik-Hanapbuhay Project, returning women OFWs may avail of skills training and grants in the form of business starter kits for such home-based income generating occupations, such as cosmetology, haircutting, foot spa, food processing, massage, reflexology, baking, native snack preparation, handicraft, flower arrangement, dress making, beauty care, and pedicure and manicure. The business starter kits come in the form of equipment, tools and jigs, raw materials, and small start-up capital.
"We conceived the Balik-Pinay, Balik Hanap Buhay Project to assist our women OFWs get a fresh start in life upon their return. As we give them a fresh start by guiding them in putting up small but income-generating, home-based businesses, we are not only assisting them financially, but also involving them as contributors towards increased economic activities in their own communities," Baldoz said.
In 2012, the NRCO reported that the project has provided livelihood starter kits and financial assistance amounting to P31 million to 3,846 OFW-beneficiaries. From January to June 2013, the NRCO trained 202 OFWs and provided them with livelihood starter kits worth P1.476 million.