Technical Education and Skills Development (TESDA) Deputy Director General Aniceto “John” Bertiz III has pushed for a special unit to attend to overseas FIlipino workers (OFWs) who were repatriated due to the new coronavirus pandemic.
Bertiz, a known OFW rights advocate, said the government needs to ensure that repatriated OFWs and their dependents are given the reskilling and upskilling training they need to cope with the adverse impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our OFWs and their families are among those badly hit by the pandemic. We need a long term and comprehensive program for them so that they can rebuild their lives and recoup the losses they have incurred,” he said.
“Apart from the ayudas (financial assistance) that the government has given them, our OFWs need to be better equipped with necessary skills in order for them to make it through the new normal,” he added.
Latest official figures showed that more than 520,000 OFWs have been displaced since the pandemic broke out, of whom 410,211 have been repatriated and have returned home after completing the mandatory 14-day quarantine protocols.
Various government agencies have rolled out several programs to assist repatriated OFWs and their dependents, and reintegrating them through the financial and livelihood assistance.
Bertiz, a former lawmaker, noted that as the government slowly opens up the country’s economy under the new normal, the displaced OFWs would be better served by providing them with skills training and allowing them to access livelihood funds.
“With so many programs to assist and reintegrate displaced and repatriated OFWs, our government should give top priority to empowering them through skills training development to be supervised by one single unit,” he pointed out.
In his 5th State of the Nation Address last July 17, President Duterte has called on TESDA to come up with special training programs to retool repatriated OFWs so that they can easily find employment or have access to livelihood programs.
Since his assumption to office in June 2020, Bertiz has been pushing for a special program for repatriated OFWs and their dependents called ‘Kapit Kamay Ka-OFW Project” designed to rationalize projects and services for them.
Under his proposed program, “Kapit Kamay Ka-OFW!” seeks to empower returning, stranded and displaced OFWs here and abroad through its reskilling and upskilling (re-tooling and upgrading of skills) training programs.
As part of the Philippine government’s post-pandemic recovery plans, it adopts an end-to-end approach to providing knowledge, skills capacity-building and livelihood (kaalaman, kakayahan, kabuhayan) assistance to pandemic-affected OFWs and their dependents.
It also envisions to entice affected OFWs to enroll and earn certifications from TESDA programs and bridging them to loan facilities available by concerned government agencies and other institutional partners in the private and volunteer sectors or.
The proposed program also seeks to enlist the support of retired or retiring OFWs to avail of the training certifications offered by TESDA to address the lack of competent and qualified trainers or subject matter experts (SMEs) in the regional or provincial levels.