Repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) which could reach to nearly 700,000 this year due to the pandemic are being encouraged to engage in farming.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said government is piloting Agri-Negosyo Para sa OFWs in five regions which have the greatest number of OFWs deployed. These are Regions 1, 3, 4-a, 6, and 7.
As of January, 569,462 OFWs have been repatriated to the country with projections that some 100,000 more will be returning in the coming months.
Lopez said aside from Metro Manila, most of the OFWs returning home are based in Cavite, Batangas, Bulacan, Laguna, Cebu, Iloilo, Rizal, Pangasinan and Pampanga.
“Thus to be able to reach to as many of you as we can, we are implementing this program in the five pilot regions,” Lopez said at the launch.
The project, he said, would immediately address the needs of returning OFWs to have a source of livelihood.
This will also help shift the direction of agriculture towards a modern, high- value industry that would strengthen the food value chain and ensure affordable and nutritious food products for Filipinos.
Lopez said the government has existing projects that tie in with the program where OFWs-turned-farmers can avail of loans, equipment and training for their new ventures.
He cited the share service facilities which now number 2,782, benefiting almost half a million beneficiaries and employing over 200,000 workers
“In partnership with the local government units, DTI is bringing the services of the government closer to the people through the livelihood seeding program,” Lopez said.
He said more than 27,000 livelihood kits that include startup stocks or machinery have been distributed.
He also encouraged OFWs to tap the Rural Agro-Industrial Partnership for Inclusive Development and Growth program which supports farming households and has helped improve the productivity and competitiveness of over a thousand micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
“The project provides value chain based and climate smart assistance and financing to agri-based MSMEs,” Lopez said.
He added a program designed specifically for OFWs is the Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pagasenso or P3 aimed at helping the economy recover from the pandemic.
He said OFW-led enterprises can tap into the loan program at the DTI Negosyo Center and the SB Corp. where they can borrow up to P100,000 free of interest and collateral.
As of March 15, over P9 million has been released for the OFW component of P3 from funds allocated under Bayanihan 1 and 2. Irma Isip