File photo shows Overseas Filipino workers in Dubai. OFWs send up to $30 billion back home. Many OFWs, however, armed with little financial literacy, invest in failed businesses, are inactive members of the Social Security System and have little in the way of retirement. A number of them go home broke after years of working overseas. An OFW investment fund could change that, by helping them have build a nest egg while also boosting the capital market in the Philippines. Image Credit: Supplied

Manila: A bill filed in the House of Representatives pushes for the establishment of a special fund where overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) can invest their money into the government’s infrastructure projects.

Rep. Jesulito Manalo of the seafarers’ party-list, ANGKLA, filed House Bill 6519 or the “OFW Sovereign Fund Act”, a special fund where all investments by OFWs, their immediate family members, and other Filipino citizens overseas can be lodged. The pooled money, will be forwarded to the Bureau of Treasury to fund its select key projects.

The fund will also enable the OFWs to directly benefit from the billions of pesos it pours into the Philippine economy in the form of remittances.

“The projects [could] include the purchase or the establishment by the government of strong cash-generating private or government corporations involved in the downstream petroleum industry, electric power generation, transmission and distribution industry, information and communications technology industry, and other strong cash-generating enterprises,” Manalo said.

Manalo, chairman of the committee on overseas workers affairs, added that the establishment of such an “OFW Sovereign Fund” will help government lessen its reliance on taxes and fees as main source of funding for infrastructure projects.

He said that funds that would be used for the OFW Sovereign Fund should be exempted from taxes.

“House Bill 6519, now being fine-tuned by a technical working group (TWG) of the committee on overseas workers affairs, provides that no amount from the OFW Sovereign Fund shall be released for covering maintenance and other operating expenses or any capital outlay inconsistent with the provisions of the act,” he said.

Likewise, the proposal also tasks the Bureau of Treasury to help notify and educate all OFWs about the programme, the creation and purpose of the OFW Sovereign Fund and how the investment in the fund will be mutually beneficial to the OFWs and the government.

Filipino migrant workers is fast-evolving into direct partners in the development of the country instead of simply a source of remittances.

Last October 9, President Rodrigo Duterte signed a law creating a bank for OFWs the Overseas Filipino Bank (OFB) through the acquisition of the Philippine Postal Savings Bank by the Land Bank of the Philippines.

Duterte said overseas OFW should be given provision of priority support for their growing financial need.

“There is a need to establish a policy bank dedicated to provide financial products and services tailored to the requirements of overseas Filipinos and focused on delivering quality and efficient foreign remittance services,” according to Duterte’s Executive Order 44, which directed the creation of the OFB.