They have been called everything from the country’s “contemporary heroes” to the “new middle class”—a clear testimony of how Filipino migrant workers have become a modern Philippine phenomenon.
Filipinos working offshore have proven time and again that they are indeed an economic force to reckon with. Only last year, amid the global financial turmoil, remittances sent by overseas Filipino workers amounted to $16.4 billion, an impressive figure which helped buoy the country’s economy.
However, ask any OFW about his long-term plans and chances are these always include returning to the Philippines to retire and be reunited with his family. Coupled with the uncertainty of living in a foreign land, especially with such unsettling events like the global financial crisis, more and more OFWs are seriously pondering their future.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has recognized the need to help migrant Filipino workers plan prudently for their future and that of their families back home.
The BSP’s Financial Learning Campaign (FLC) was created in 2005 to cultivate financial education and promote savings and investments among OFWs and their beneficiaries.
Its establishment has been spurred by a 2004 Asian Development Bank Study which concluded that Filipinos working in other countries have huge potential for savings mobilization.
Furthermore, BSP Consumer Expectations Surveys from 2004 to 2008 showed that apart from expenditures on food, clothing, and housing, remittances were also used for education, medical care, purchase of real estate, and savings.
The Financial Learning Campaign was first launched in Cebu City on February 28, 2006. Since then, a total of 37 FLCs have been conducted in 25 cities and provinces in the Philippines.
Local FLCs target OFWs who are either waiting to be rehired or are on vacation in the Philippines. Beneficiaries of migrant Filipino workers, mostly parents and spouses, also benefit from the campaign.
Last year, the BSP began conducting international roadshows in various countries. More than a thousand Filipino workers in Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Italy, and the United Kingdom have since participated in the BSP’s financial education program.
One of the most basic lessons stressed during the FLCs is a financial paradigm shift: Instead of saving whatever is left of his income after all the expenditures have been made, an OFW is encouraged to spend what is left of his income after allocating a portion of his earnings to savings and investments.
The FLC team briefs the OFWs and their families on various investment outlets and savings instruments available in the market. Such outlets and instruments include savings deposits, time deposits, life and non-life insurance, government securities such as treasury bills, corporate bonds, and real estate.
OFWs are likewise given ideas on possible businesses they could venture into, such as franchises and agri-business.
Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, chairman and CEO of the Ayala Corporation, was right in saying that at the end of the day, the option to stay or leave the country is a personal choice.
Equipping migrant Filipino workers with the proper knowledge empowers them to make the right choice about their future. By having control over their finances, Filipinos can leave the country because they choose to, and not because they need to.
By ATTY. IGNACIO BUNYE
November 29, 2009, 5:25pm