DOST OFW Livelihood Funding Program Surpasses Other Agencies – Manila Bulletin



Jun Concepcion

Which government agency provides the most substantial and useful livelihood assistance to OFWs or Filipinos overseas? Is it OWWA’s “Balik Pinas Balik Hanapbuhay” stand-alone program that provides a maximum of ₱20,000 as start-up or additional capital for a livelihood project?

Is it the HEROES program of the Small Business Corporation unit of the Ministry of Commerce which offers up to 100,000 pesos “interest free”, a three-year subsistence loan to OFWs who have returned home for good?
Or is it the best livelihood assistance program, the joint OWWA-Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) OFW Reintegration Program which provides up to 2 million pesos to an OFW with a sole proprietorship or 5 million pesos to a group of OFW?

Up to ₱2 million for a sole proprietorship presumably operated by a single OFW? Wow! It certainly looks impressive and attractive, especially at first glance.

At first glance, OFWs who are planning to return home for good and set up an alternative to lucrative income abroad will certainly opt for subsistence loans under the OWWA-LBP Reintegration Program.

But just like many beautiful things, attractive appearances can be deceiving. To a large extent, this is true with various government-sponsored livelihood programs for OFWs. While OFWs have various choices among government livelihood programs and assistance to OFWs, especially for those planning to return home for good or, these options vary from program to program.

After speaking with officers and staff responsible for running different government livelihood programs, I cannot help but conclude that DOST’s OFW-focused livelihood program is far superior to all others, including those in the Department of Agriculture and other agencies.

Although the OWWA-LBP Livelihood Finance Program looks the best with its multi-million peso offer to aspiring entrepreneurs, it is the hardest to access and hardest to get through compared to all other similar programs. Notably, the OWWA-LBP loan program often requires loan applicants to show a three-year profit history in an ongoing business plus collateral, often in the form of real estate. But who among the OFWs is able to set such a record when working abroad? Hardly anyone unless someone is a part-time OFW, which is nonsense. More often than not, livelihood start-up projects for new OFW entrepreneurs are not welcome in the OWWA-LBP livelihood loan program.

In stark contrast, DOST’s assistance program for OFWs, whether they’re still at work overseas or already back home, is a soothing breath of fresh air.

DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Pena told the Manila Bulletin that the agency’s livelihood assistance of up to ₱250,000 is open to all OFWs, including those still working overseas but who plan to return home for good one day.

“Our funding for OFW livelihoods is limited, but it is inclusive and open to all interested OFWs, even those who have not yet returned home,” he said.

In contrast, most OFW livelihoods funding programs require intended recipients to have returned home for good and no longer work overseas.

DOST livelihood loans to interested OFWs do not require interest payments and are repayable in three years, although particular emphasis is placed on technology-related livelihood projects, such as food processing and metallurgy, in which the agency has a strong track record and in which it provides significant technical and advisory assistance. Start-up livelihood projects are welcome and promoters should be very well trained up to six months or more on how to become entrepreneurs and run businesses. In-depth training and mentoring will be provided by officers from partner companies and non-governmental organizations with real experience in running businesses.

A slight drawback however in the DOST program is the amount of loan it gives to the beneficiaries which must be matched with counterpart funding which will be provided by the project sponsor. Requiring counterpart funding is by no means an unusual practice, even for sovereign or government borrowing. In various large-scale infrastructure and development projects financed by the World Bank and other foreign institutions, the Philippine government is required by the lenders to provide counterpart funding. DOST seems to simply use this lending practice and principle, although most aspiring OFW entrepreneurs most likely prefer to obtain almost all working capital from government loans or grants.

The beauty of the DOST Livelihood Training Program is that it is conducted online, allowing many OFWs still working overseas to participate while preparing and preparing for the day when they can leave their jobs abroad and run their own business at home. .

In contrast, the full day of entrepreneurship training required under the OWWA-LBP OFW Reintegration Funding Program is often delivered in person, not online, and is woefully insufficient to properly prepare participants for a radical change from salaried employees for years to real operators and managers of their own business.

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