Albert Valenciano, OWWA administrative and finance management director, said the recipients were among the initial batch who availed of the newly-launched lending program of the national government for OFWs who were earlier retrenched and forced to return home due to the global economic slump.
He said 19 of the recipients are from the provinces of North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Koronadal City while 11 others come from this city.
He said these recipients were among those who returned to the country beginning October 2008.
“They each received collateral-free, soft loans worth P50,000 at a very minimal interest rate that they could use as start-up capital for small business or livelihood projects,” said Valenciano, who led the distribution of the checks to the recipients here and in Koronadal City on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Dubbed Filipino Expatriate Livelihood Support Fund (FELSF), an OWWA program brief said the initiative is part of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program.
The OWWA Board of Trustees earlier allocated some P100 million for the FELSF as an economic safety net.
Valenciano said the recipients or borrowers were selected by OWWA based on endorsements from the National Reintegration Center for OFWs and the OWWA regional welfare offices.
He said the agency initially offered the prospective borrowers with basic business management courses and skills training on some specialized fields through their partner training institutions and agencies.
In Region 12, which covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Kidapawan, Cotabato and Tacurong, Valenciano said the training was provided by the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (Tesda) and the Department of Trade and Industry.
After completing the skills training, Valenciano said they required the prospective borrowers to submit simple business plans for their chosen business ventures and livelihood projects.
Valenciano explained that unlike the traditional lending practices, their borrowers need not issue or submit a collateral to qualify for the loan.
He said the program also offers a three-month grace period before the start of the loan repayment, which will take 24 months at an interest of 5 percent.
Abdulghani Umag, OWWA Region 12 director, said they are emphasizing the need for the prospective borrowers to take part in their capability-building activities to make sure that they are equipped with proper skills and basic knowledge in running businesses.
“This is very important because we don't want these loans to just go down the drain. We want them to sustain their projects or business ventures for long term,” he said.
Umag said the agency is presently evaluating the application of prospective borrowers for the program's upcoming releases.
He said at least two more batches of recipients or borrowers from the region will be processed by OWWA in the coming months. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)