Manila, Philippines – With the repatriation of 28,589 OFWs as of 21 May 2020, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) launched a project entitled iFWD PH: Innovations for Filipinos Working Distantly from the Philippines on 28 May 2020 to provide assistance in establishing alternative livelihood projects in their own provinces.
According to the Undersecretary for Regional Operations of the DOST, Brenda L. Nazareth-Manzano, this project “will provide them with opportunities to continue what they have started in their journey to building a good and progressive future for themselves and their families.” The undersecretary also referred to the OFWs as the “modern-day heroes” because of their contribution to the Philippine economy. She also stated that “we at the DOST will be our OFWs’ big sisters and brothers, ready to lend helping hands so that they will be able to realize their dreams here in our country.”
DOST-NCR Regional Director Jose B. Patalinjug III said that the general objective of the DOST’s iFWD PH project is to provide support and opportunities for OFWs and their families to establish technology-based enterprises in the country.
Dir. Patainjug laid the program framework such that phase 1 will be comprised of capability building and phase 2 will consist of funding support for the establishment of technology-based enterprises.
He also emphasized that part of the program is the provision of and access to technology-based entrepreneurship advisors, technical assistance, use of DOST facilities, and network and linkages with established SETUP beneficiaries.
Under the project, returning OFWs may also form groups of five (5) members to form a partnership or corporation, or 15 members to form a cooperative. He also pointed out that the DOST’s goal is to provide opportunities for OFWs to establish technology-based enterprises so they can literally move forward from being quarantined to returning home and building their own livelihood.
Holistic support for the Filipino family
The iFWDPH project will initially start in NCR and will eventually be implemented nationwide. “Considering that the Filipino ‘family’ is part of the iFWD PH program, the OFWs’ family members can be vital in putting up a technology-based enterprise for them. Subsequently, entrepreneurial activities will materialize for the OFWs and their families,” DOST Secretary Fortunato “Boy” dela Peña said in his remarks during the virtual presser.
Sec. dela Peña enumerated some important components of the said project such as the provision of technology training and technology assistance. He also emphasized that OFWS may already have the capacity and would only need a boost. “Other OFWs kailangan lang ng briefing.‘Yong iba may naipon ‘di na kailangan ng financial but technical. ‘Di sapat ang financial. Walang ipon,” said Sec. dela Peña.
On the other hand, Usec. Edwin Baelrepresenting Secretary Abdullah D. Mama-oof the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers (OPA-OFW)welcomed the collaboration of their office and the DOST and said, “Kapagsinabimongikaw ay matatag at matapat, ikaw ay susulong at uunlad,” just like how our kababayans were described by their employers and co-workmates abroad - determined and dedicated - they will do anything with all their might to live their dreams.
Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding
To seal the partnership of the DOST and OPA-OFQ, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed, with the agreement to commit and collaborate in the provision of support and opportunities to OFWs and their family to own or manage technology-based enterprises, as well as assist and protect their interest and welfare.
During the virtual presser, Sec. dela Peña stressed one of the requirements for the OFW to be eligible to avail of the project, “Ang pwede lang dito ay technology-based nanegosyo, –technology ng DOST or other government-funded research output.”
As to the role and contribution of the OPA-OFW, Usec. Bael said, “Our role is to help DOST network with other agencies and with OFW groups all over the Philippines and even abroad. As to the counterpart funds, pu-pwede naming umpisahan na makipag-negotiate sa ibang mga bansa, especially sa Middle East nabigyan nila ng parang development assistance to provide for the counterparty sa ating mga approved programs, approved projects dun sa iFWD para matulungan ang mga returned OFWs.”
Responding to questions from the media, Dir. Patalinjug disclosed that the project is aligned with the DOST’s existing programs, “Isa sa mga ipapakita natin sa programang ito, ipapakilala natin at magse-setup tayo ng mga advisor, mga technology-based entrepreneurship advisors and entrepreneurial advisors kung saan ito’y kinabibilangan ng mga SETUP (Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program) clients natin. Kukuha tayo sa kanila natututok, tutulong, maga-advise sa mga newbie OFW entrepreneurs.”
Dir. Patalinjug added that the Entrepinoy Volunteers Foundation, Inc. (EVFI) will also help the OFWs by conducting seminars and trainings for them and said, “pwede silang i-pasok sa supply chain ng SETUP projects (natin).”
Help on the way
On a final note, Dir. Patalinjug excitedly exclaimed, “Paratingna ang iFWD para sa ating mga OFW... Abangan!” which Usec. Nazareth-Manzano seconded by saying, “We’re ready to FORWARD our assistance.”
Usec. Baelreiterated that the DOST and the OPA-OFW are looking forward to the full participation of the returning OFWs because this technology-based projects are going to serve as multipliers. He said, “Para ito sa ating pagsulong at pag-unlad, upang makatulong nang husto ang ating bumabalik na manggagawa ay maka-reintegrate sa ating bayan.”
For his concluding remark, Sec. Dela Peña echoed Usec. Bael’s statement, “Ang umunlad ang lahat ng ating rehiyon ang susi sa pag-unlad ng ating bayan.”