(STAR) By Marvin Sy - Malacañang said yesterday that it is addressing the impact of the strong peso and the weakening United States dollar on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) by launching various programs aimed at giving them more value for their money.

Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio Bunye said that President Arroyo has personally informed overseas Filipinos on the government’s programs during her short visit to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates late last month.

During her visit to Dubai, the President launched the hedge facilities offered by the Development Bank of the Philippines.

By availing themselves of this facility, the overseas Filipinos would be able to enjoy a fixed exchange rate of their choice by paying a premium to the DBP.

“A pre-agreed exchange rate if the peso further strengthens, but not if the peso weakens; or paying an insurance fee to DBP at approximately 1.14 percent of the amount to be remitted to cover the OFWs at a pre-agreed exchange rate if the peso strengthens and pay the prevailing market exchange rate if the peso weakens,” the President said in describing the hedge facilities.

“These facilities will afford our OFWs some measure of protection against some wide fluctuations of the peso,” Bunye said.

The President also launched the Long-Term Negotiable Certificates of Deposit or the so-called OFW Bonds of the Landbank of the Philippines during her visit to Dubai.

Since the OFW bonds carry long maturities, the Landbank would be able to offer a higher interest rate for the subscribers than the regular financial instruments offered by the market.

Bunye said that the government has also launched several projects to help both the OFWs and their families in the Philippines earn extra income and buy basic necessities at lower cost.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Anthony Golez said that the President anticipated the inevitable consequences of the strong peso and immediately directed the Department of Labor and Employment and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) “to support and guide our OFWs to make sure that their incomes are augmented.”

Golez noted that the DOLE has been focusing its efforts on the semi-skilled group of OFWs or those earning an average of $200 to $399 per month since the impact of the exchange rate is higher with this group.

The DOLE, in coordination with the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Agriculture, has been providing livelihood assistance and technical skills training to the families of the semi-skilled workers.

Among the provinces identified by the DOLE as having a greater percentage of semi-skilled OFWs are Samar, Leyte, North Cotabato, Zamboanga, Iloilo, Aklan, Capiz, Maguindanao, South Cotabato, Agusan, La Union, Isabela, and Pangasinan.

Golez noted that OFW families have also been allowed to operate commissaries that sell goods at discounted price.

The BSP came up with the Financial Literacy Program which aims to cultivate financial education among OFWs and their beneficiaries, through alternative uses of their remittances such as savings, investments in financial products, and business ventures.

It is also familiarizing OFWs with consumer laws and the BSP consumer protection program.

“With these programs, President Arroyo is confident that OFWs and their families would also be protected and at the same time, benefit from the strong economy and currency of the country,” Golez said.

A study conducted by the BSP revealed that overseas Filipinos lost over P24 billion in income last year due to the stronger peso and the weaker US dollar compared to 2006.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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