Manila: President Rodrigo Duterte has signed an executive order creating a bank for overseas Filipinos, an idea that took a decade to develop, and finally become a reality under the present administration.
Duterte, in an executive order signed on September 28 but made public only on Monday, ordered the creation of the Overseas Filipino Bank (OFB) through the acquisition of the moribund Philippine Postal Savings Bank by the Land Bank of the Philippines. Both are government-owned and controlled corporations.
“Subject to necessary approvals by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Philippine Central Bank) and other government regulatory agencies, the acquisition of the PPSB by the Land Bank through the transfer of shares and its subsequent conversion into an OFB is hereby approved,” the executive order said.
Giving back of sorts
The creation of a bank for overseas Filipinos is a giving back of sorts for Filipinos who spend years working abroad, often away from their families. They contribute to the country’s foreign exchange income, currency stability, employment and overall economic growth through their remittances.
In issuing the executive order, Duterte said overseas Filipinos workers (OFW) should be given priority support for their growing financial needs.
“There is a need to establish a policy bank dedicated to providing financial products and services tailored to the requirements of overseas Filipinos and focused on delivering quality and efficient foreign remittance services,” Duterte’s Executive Order 44 said. “Pursuant to the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 this Administration aims to ensure sound macroeconomic policy by strengthening the effectiveness of financial institution initiatives, particularly those focusing efficient delivery of microfinance and micro-insurance products and services for Filipinos who live abroad.”
Overseas Filipino card
Last February, Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello III revealed plans for the establishment of Overseas Filipino Bank as well as an ID system for overseas Filipinos. “We will implement the OFW identification card system this March while the OFW Bank will be launched in November,” Bello said at that time.
According to Bello, the OFW ID system marks the first phase of an integrated system that will link up the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) database with that of the other agencies of the government such as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Social Security System (SSS), Commission on Higher Education (CHED) at Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
“Using the OFW ID card, OFWs can verify information and process the documents that they require. The card can also be used for transactions with the OFW Bank and other government financial institutions,” he said.
“Using the OFW card, concerns over the authenticity of documents that they use would be lessened or eliminated and these can all be done online,” he said.
As early as 2007, then Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada had already been pushing for the establishment of a bank for OFWs.
“Their remittances have become the country’s single biggest source of foreign exchange. It is just fitting that we find ways to provide them with the means for lower-costing financial transactions, and enhance their income-generation capabilities as investors,” Estrada said then.