Written by: Gracious B. Romero

Seven months after the national online launch of the BalikaBayanihan Campaign last 4 August 2020, the Regional Development Council of CALABARZON through its Committee on Migration and Development (CMD) officially introduced the initiative to the OFWs and their families in the region last 26 March 2021 via virtual launch joined by more than 200 participants from the different government agencies, local government units, private organizations and the OFWs.

Prior to the launch, the CMD coordinated and organized meetings with the different sectors in the region to come up with a plan on bringing about the necessary programs in aid of the repatriated, displaced and returned OFWs in the region.

The launch dwelt on sharing of programs such as training, grants, loans, counseling, mentoring and other services available for repatriated OFWs and their families.

In his message, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) 4-A Regional Director (RD) and Chairperson of the Regional Development Council (RDC) CALABARZON Committee on Migration and Development, Engr. Luis G. Banua said that, there are 100,000 returning OFWs in CALABARZON already since the pandemic started, adding that even before the outbreak of COVID-19, RDC 4-A has in-place initiatives for OFWs. RD Banua further highlighted that NEDA and the RDC is always committed in addressing issues and concerns related to internal migration and in developing alternative and sustainable livelihood initiatives.

NEDA 4-A Regional Director and Chairperson of RDC CALABARZON Committee on Migration and Development Engr. Luis G. Banua delivers his message of support to the OFWs

PNVSCA Executive Director Donald James D. Gawe in his video message emphasized that the campaign “envisions contributing to the desire of the society that our dear OFWs who returned because of COVID-19 would find work or shall have sustainable livelihood opportunities in their hometowns, or at least in any part of the country and stay for good”. He also called on everyone to volunteer and lend a hand to the displaced and repatriated OFWs through the BalikaBayanihan.

PNVSCA Executive Director Donald James D. Gawe calls for volunteers to the returned, repatriated and displaced OFWs

Atikha Chairperson and OWWA Women Representative Board of Trustee Estrella Mai Dizon-Añonuevo made a brief overview on how the campaign came about and encouraged everyone to volunteer as an organization for BalikaBayanihan and to visit Balikabayanihan’s website www.balikabayanihan.owwa.gov.ph, which is a one-stop reintegration portal of significant government agencies for OFWs such as the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and local government units in CALABARZON.

BalikaBayanihan’s programs and services may now also be accessed via a mobile application via Google Play, and soon on IOS.

OWWA NRCO’s OIC-Director Roel B. Martin mentioned that BalikaBayanihan is “convergence.” He also reported that as of their latest tally, they assisted a total of 480,297 OFWs since the pandemic started, most of which were laid off and/or ended their contract. Out of that number, 52.7% did not receive assistance from their employers or the government where they worked for. The profiles of returning OFWs are the following: 63% are looking for business opportunities, 19% are looking for work, while 18% are still planning to go back abroad. OFWs are eyeing the following most common business opportunities: sari-sari store, rice store, water refilling station, food store, food manufacturing, and agri-related business. And out of these numbers, 72% are currently engaged in agribusiness while 34.4% owns parcels of land. Director Martin added that they are also offering small business management training and financial awareness seminars as part of the “Balik-Pinas, Balik-Hanapbuhay Program.”

Regional Line Agencies such as the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) 4-A, Department of Agriculture Region 4-A, Department of Science and Technology Region 4-A, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and the Provincial Governments of Cavite, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon shared their respective programs which may be availed of by the OFWs.

In the open forum, most of the concerns of the OFWs were on how to access the government programs specifically for those who are planning to venture into business, local employment opportunities and how to register via the mobile app. Representatives of concerned government agencies and LGUs thoroughly explained the processes on how to avail of the services and even shared their contact details for easier coordination.

Atikha Executive Director Aileen Constantino-Peñas also shared the training and mentoring programs of the organization which may be availed of by the OFWs and their families which includes starting and improving business, social entrepreneurship and other related services. Atikha is a non-government organization that provides economic and social services to overseas Filipinos and their families in the Philippines.

Through the BalikaBayanihan, PNVSCA, together with the Atikha and OWWA-NRCO, calls for volunteer mentors and partners to provide mentoring, technical assistance and other support services as well as to help the OFWs access jobs, training, business opportunities, and other services.

The author is currently the V4DCAP Program Officer of the Policy, Advocacy and Technical Services Division (PATSD), Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency.

Visit PNVSCA website (www.pnvsca.gov.ph) and PNVSCA Facebook (facebook.com/PNVSCA) for other stories and information on volunteering.