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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Government Feady for OFWs repatriates from Syria

Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday said the government is ready to receive and assist overseas Filipino workers, mostly women domestic service workers, who may be repatriated from civil-strife torn Syria.

Baldoz issued the statement after the Department of Foreign Affairs raised the crisis alert level in Syria from Alert Level 3 to Alert Level 4 in view of the escalating violence in that country. Under Alert Level 4, the Philippine government will implement a mandatory repatriation of OFWs at its own expense.

The labor and employment chief said that the DOLE is enjoining OFWs in Syria to avail of the mandatory repatriation program of the government, saying that coming home to the Philippines will ensure their welfare, safety, and protection.

“We are prepared to assist them in with a package of assistance when they arrive,” Baldoz said.

Baldoz said that OFWs from Syria will be provided sufficient support under the national Reintegration Program for OFWs, under which several programs are in place and are being implemented.

One reintegration package she cited is the Balik-Pinay, Balik Hanap-buhay Program which is dedicated for distressed women OFWs.

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 a P10,000.00 livelihood/business development assistance to returning women OFWs.

The P10,000.00 is intended as a start-up capital for livelihood undertakings that a recipient may choose to engage in, such as trading or general merchandise sales/dealership; neighborhood store; agri-business; food service; services; e-load station; and production or manufacturing.

Baldoz said that since it was implemented, the NRCO has already disbursed P16.923 million to 1,630 individual OFWs and eight (8) OFW groups in all of the country’s 15 regions.

She also explained that OFW returnees from Syria may avail of skills training under the Balik-Pinay, Balik-Hanapbuhay Program, under which a returning woman OFW will be trained in various skills, 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 after which they will be provided with service business starter kits which they can use to engage in home businesses.

This year, 748 women OFWs who have returned to stay permanently have received skills training and received business starter kits under this program.

For OFWs with their sights on bigger businesses, Baldoz said they could avail of the low-interest, collateral-free loans offered under the P2-billion OFW Reintegration Program. OFW borrowers can borrow as much as P2 million in loans for their business of choice.

Under this program, 299 OFW returnees have already availed of P51.918 million in loans to kick-start various small and medium businesses, such as trading, agri-business, franchising, wellness, handicraft, services, schools, internet, food manufacturing, and medical and dental clinics.

“For OFWs in Syria who will return to the Philippines, we encourage them to remain in the country because there are jobs and other non-wage employment opportunities that are waiting for them, where the pay or income is much greater than their salaries as domestic service workers in Syria,” Baldoz said.

“If they remain in the country, we could better protect them. It will also minimize the social cost of being away from their homeland which could be higher in vulnerable occupations like domestic work,” Baldoz finally said.

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