The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) introduced a new project entitled "iFWD PH: Innovations for Filipinos Working Distantly from the Philippines" developed to aid in the livelihood of repatriated OFWs as they opt to stay in the Philippines. The kick off was supported by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers (OPA-OFW) last Friday, 28 May 2020 through a live virtual presser released on the official Facebook page of DOST.
The event was graced by the Secretary of DOST, Fortunato T. Dela Pena, the Undersecretary for Regional Operations of the DOST, Brenda L. Nazareth-Manzano, the Undersecretary of OPA-OFW, Edwin Bael and the Regional Director of DOST-NCR, Jose "Jojo" Patalinjug III, and was facilitated by the DOST-Science and Technology Information Institute (DOST-STII) Director Richard P. Burgos.
They shared their thoughts about their motivation in giving our fellow OFWs another reason to stay in the Philippines. According to Usec. Manzano, "DOST will be the OFWs' big sisters and brothers, ready to lend helping hands so that they will be able to realize their dreams here in our country. A better way to welcome them, when the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced on 21 May 2020 that they will assist in the repartition of 28,589 OFWs, due to the on-going health crisis," is to "provide them with opportunities to continue what they have started in their journey to building a good and progressive future for themselves and their families."
Dir. Patalinjug, for his part, explained the whole scheme as DOST-NCR will be the one to kick off the program before it is disseminated to other regions. He thoroughly explained iFWD PH's general objective, which is to provide support and opportunities for OFWs and their families to establish technology-based enterprises in the country along with its program framework which is divided into two-Phase 1: Capability Building and Phase 2: Funding Support. The goal of this project is to "provide opportunities for OFWs to establish technology-based enterprises, so our OFWs can literally move forward from being quarantined to returning home and building their own livelihood."
DOST Secretary Fortunato "Boy" Dela Pena stated the key points of the project with emphasis on who would benefit from it (OFWs and their Family). In his statement, he also took the chance to mention the initiatives and innovations of the DOST to beat COVID-19, which are aligned in four key areas or 4Ks of Technologies namely: Kalusugan (Developmental Kits, Natural Products, Specimen Collection Booths and Personal Protective Equipment); Kaayusan (Rapidpass and Check pass); Kabuhayan (iFWD); and Kinabukasan (Establishment of Pharmaceutical Development Center and Schooling for Youth).
Usec. Edwin Bael of the OPA-OFW who was also present during the online presser gave a notable quote, "Kapag sinabi mong ikaw ay matatag at matapat, ikaw ay susulong at uunlad" to encourage Filipinos, especially the OFWs in pursuing their dreams. Filipinos are known to be hardworking and dedicated, as they fly abroad to be of good help to their family and reach their dreams.
The virtual presser also featured the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the DOST and OPA-OFW to signify commitment and collaboration towards enriching the lives of our fellow Filipinos. Secretary Dela Pena and USec. Bael signed the MOU.
Nonetheless, just like any other virtual presser, the program did not end without the question and answer portion. One of the questions asked was on how this program can help an OFW as they start a living in their province, Secretary Boy answered with four things: (1) Give background about entrepreneurship; (2) Conduct competency test to see if they are fit to be an entrepreneur; (3) Provide different technology training, use of some facilities, etc; and (4) Help financially. Another question asked was about the difference of iFWD from other livelihood programs offered by other agencies and private companies, USec Bren answered, "Ang pwede lang dito ay technology-based na negosyo-technology ng dost or other government-funded research output."
Moreover, another question was raised but specifically for the OPA-OFW, a query about the role and contribution of the OPA-OFW in the said program. Usec. Bael answered, "Our role is to help DOST network with other agencies and with OFW groups all over the Philippines and even abroad. As to the counterpart funds, pu-pwede naming umpisahan na makipag-negotiate sa ibang mga bansa, especially sa Middle East na bigyan nila ng parang development assistance to provide for the counterparty sa ating mga approved programs, approved projects dun sa iFWD para matulungan ang mga returned OFWs."
As Usec. Bael emphasized the connections to be made abroad, Dir. Patalinjug also shared the network linkages DOST has which can be of use in this program, "Isa sa mga ipapakita natin sa programang ito, ipapakilala natin at magse-setup tayo ng mga advisor, mga technology-based entrepreneurship advisors kung saan ito'y kinabibilangan ng mga SETUP (Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program) Clients natin. Kukuha tayo sa kanila na tututok, tutulong, maga-advise sa mga newbie OFW entrepreneurs."
Ending the online event with a kick, Sec. Dela Pena summed it up with an emphasis of giving back to our country, "Ang umunlad ang lahat ng ating rehiyon ang susi sa pag-unlad ng ating bayan." Surely in this way, we may express our gratefulness and love to our OFWs whom we consider as our modern-day heroes for their unequalled help to our economy.