MANILA, Philippines — Due to the economic crisis in Italy and other European countries, some overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) there are now asking about opportunities here for a possible return, according to Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz.
She said that during her recent trip to Europe, she was able to talk with some OFWs who claimed that they have been mulling the idea of going back home because of the debt crisis affecting the region.
“But they admitted that what has been hindering them was the thought of how they would start all over again once they go back to the Philippines,” she said, adding that this prompted the labor department to intensify the government’s OFW reintegration program.
On Tuesday, Baldoz and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala signed a memorandum of agreement that would set into motion the promotion of agribusiness, particularly agribusiness entrepreneurship, as a strategic part of the National Reintegration Program for OFWs.
“Today, we formalize a partnership between the DOLE and the DA in implementing joint and convergent programs, projects, and services for OFWs and their families who intend to pursue agribusiness as part of the National Reintegration Program for OFWs,” said Baldoz.
“This is in recognition of our overseas Filipino workers’ contribution to the country’s economic growth and of our belief in their capability to advance rural development by venturing into agribusiness,” she added.
The DOLE agrees with the DA in its position that the country’s agricultural sector has a lot of potential, especially in terms of creating jobs for many Filipinos and that the country needs more agribusiness entrepreneurs who will not only invest money, but also more importantly, time, effort, and skills to modernize the agriculture sector, according to Baldoz.
“We also believe that the knowledge acquired by OFWs while working in other countries makes them a right fit to what the agriculture sector needs,” Baldoz said.
Under the agreement, the DOLE shall make available the P2 Billion OFW Reintegration Program for OFW ventures in agriculture or fisheries, either for business expansion or start-up operations, subject to the program’s implementing rules and regulations.
The DOLE has formulated a holistic and expansive national reintegration program framework that links worker migration to development. It is pursuing this as the lead government agency that oversees and coordinates the implementation of various programs and initiatives for the protection, welfare, and promotion of the general interest and well-being of OFWs and their families, including their productive reintegration to the country after working overseas,
On the other hand, the DA’s primary role is to develop the country’s agriculture and to promote agribusiness and to assist interested groups and individuals who venture into agriculture and fisheries.
“This new framework calls for the development of a comprehensive return and reintegration program anchored on the concept of full utilization of Filipino migrants’ capacities and resources to be used for their and their families’ benefit and to achieve national development,” said Baldoz.
The DOLE under the agreement shall organize entrepreneurship development training and related activities for OFWs and/or their families who intend to venture in agribusiness.
For its part, the DA shall package priority agribusiness ventures for promotion among prospective OFW-entrepreneurs or investors, including showcasing these ventures in selected demonstration farms around the country; provide resource persons on agribusiness during DOLE-organized entrepreneurship development training and technical assistance to prospective and current OFW-entrepreneurs in agriculture and fisheries, through in-house facilities and network of experts/technicians in the government and private sector.
It shall also enable OFW-entrepreneurs to access available financing for agribusiness, either from DA or through any of its network of partner institutions; and ensure the support of its specialized agencies and offices, particularly the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Services (AMAS), regional offices, and the Office of Agricultural Attaches abroad, in promoting agribusiness among OFWs and their families, locally and in overseas jobsites.