SENATOR LOREN LEGARDA Chair, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Speech delivered at the “6th Pamilyang OFW-MSMEs Summer Expo and Handog kay Pnoy Jobs and Livelihood Expo”

March 25, 2011

More than two decades ago, in 1984, the Philippines deployed about 351,000 Filipino workers overseas. By the end of 2008, our annual deployment has reached 1.2 million, about one million land-based and more than 200,000 seafarers.[1] Filipino workers can now be found in almost all countries. In fact, we are second only to the Indians in terms of migration, with about 10% of our total population of 92 million working and residing abroad.
Migration of our workers helps reduce unemployment in two ways, one is by lowering the number of workers competing for the limited jobs in the local labor market; the other is by creating local employment opportunities through the investment of a portion of the more than 17 billion dollars remitted by OFWs annually. It is through this second aspect that we will be able to prevent our OFWs to go back and forth from the Philippines to different countries throughout their working life.
In the 1970s we have seen the “Katas ng Saudi” banners behind jeepneys and tricycles manifesting that it was an investment from overseas earnings. These were the first types of micro undertakings that our OFWs went into. It made the government and the private sector realize the need for relevant and appropriate policies and programs that will help OFWs invest their money in enterprises that would augment their income and maybe convince them to remain in the country.
However, we need to make sure business ventures entered into by various OFWs or their families will have the highest probability of success. They must be well prepared to go into entrepreneurial undertakings through proper support in terms of skills training, entrepreneurial abilities, financial management or sourcing, and marketing.
Today, thousands of our migrant workers had been displaced due to the political unrest in some countries in the Middle East and North Africa. While their safety is our main concern in bringing them back to our country, the government has an obligation to help them find jobs or support livelihood programs for their reintegration, as stated under Republic Act 10022, or the Amended Migrant Workers Act.
One thing we can do is to encourage them to enter into micro or small enterprises. Republic Act 9501, otherwise known as the Magna Carta for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Act, which I principally sponsored and authored, provides more assistance to MSMEs by requiring lending institutions to allocate at least eight percent (8%), an increase from the previous six percent (6%), of their total loan portfolio to micro and small businesses.
It also provides access to new technologies and regular entrepreneurship training programs for workers as well as a comprehensive development plan that would ensure the viability and growth of MSMEs in the country.
OFWs must take advantage of this law, in the same way, the government must continue to urge our overseas Filipinos to engage into MSMEs because it not only allows OFWs to make good investment out of their income, but also provides more employment opportunities for other Filipinos.
Statistics from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) show that, as of 2009, there are 780,437 business enterprises operating in the country. Of these, 99.6% (777,357) are MSMEs and the remaining 0.4% (3,080) are large enterprises.[2]
In the same year, MSMEs generated a total of 3,595,641 jobs, while large enterprises provided for 2,094,298 jobs.[3]
We see the huge potential of MSMEs both in generating income for and employment in our country. That is why I also call on the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to conduct seminars for OFWs not only on cultural adjustment but also in preparing them for business ventures before they leave for work abroad. This way, our OFWs, with the help of their families, would be able to plan out how much they will have to save to start a pre-identified business by the time they return to the country or even while they are still overseas.
Our OFWs and their families who have engaged in entrepreneurship are doing this country the best of service. Without their sacrifice we all know this country would be in a greater financial crisis. And as recent events show, we all know that OFWs cannot depend on overseas work forever. They must strive to be self-employed.
It is in this regard that I laud the efforts of the Pamilyang OFW-SME Network Foundation, or OPO. You have helped strengthen MSMEs in the country and supported our OFWs by showing them how to invest their money well. Your organization is exactly what we need today–an organization that transforms its members from being employed to self-employed; an organization that helps our OFWs build their future here in our country with their loved ones; an organization that helps Filipinos by providing job, livelihood, investment and business opportunities.
Congratulations to the Pamilyang OFW-SME Network Foundation! Mabuhay kayong lahat!