World Bank eyes support for OFW program
World Bank Group president Robert B. Zoellick said the multilateral lender was open to providing financial support to the Philippines for an assistance program for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affected by unfavorable events offshore.
In a press conference Thursday, Zoellick, who was in Manila for a two-day visit, acknowledged the ill-effects of the weak economies of the United States and the eurozone on migrant workers.
Zoellick said the bank funded similar assistance programs in the past in other countries, and it was willing to do the same for the Philippines.
“It is a type of program we (the World Bank) can work on for the Philippines,” Zoellick told reporters.
The United States and countries in the eurozone are some of the biggest hosts to migrant workers from various countries, including the Philippines. The challenges confronting their economies, however, have led to job displacements for some of these workers.
Zoellick said the Philippines had so far been fortunate to see continued growth in remittances from overseas Filipinos despite the economic and debt woes of the advanced economies in the West.
The growth in remittances indicates that while some OFWs in crisis-torn countries lose their jobs, others acquire employment in alternative labor markets.
“Remittances from Filipinos overseas have held up pretty well because they work across sectors,” Zoellick said.
The World Bank assistance may be extended to a program that will help displaced Filipino workers find alternative employment or income opportunities.
He said the bank acknowledged the importance of remittances to the Philippines and other emerging economies.
Remittances to the Philippines amounted to $13.02 billion in January to August, up by 6.9 percent from $12.18 billion in the same period last year, according to a report by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
The Philippines is the fourth-biggest remittance-receiving country next to China, India and Mexico.
In the meantime, Zoellick said the bank was also willing to provide financial support for other development programs in the country.
He said the Philippines would receive a $2-million grant from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, a pool of fund contributed by 38 countries and seven international institutions including the World Bank.
The money is meant to help the country improve its capacity to reduce the ill-effects of natural disasters.
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