MALAYA: OFWs in Europe sign pact with LGU to invest more

By ANTHONY IAN CRUZ
Malaya
Nov. 16, 2007

ORGANIZATIONS of overseas Filipino workers in Europe are gearing to invest more in the country after signing a memorandum of understanding with Misamis Oriental governor Oscar Moreno in what they dubbed as the “Uno Por Uno Initiative.”

The initiative will have local governments like the Misamis Oriental one under Moreno matching peso-for-peso the investments made in the area by OFW groups.

The MOU was signed by Moreno, Habagat Foundation, Damayan Association in the Netherlands, BisDak Network Netherlands, and the newly formed Overseas Filipino Caucus for Sustainable Development.

OFW advocate Prof. Mila Aguilar said the agreement was “groundbreaking” and heralds the start of active local government engagement in OFW-initiated projects in the country. “Historically, European Filipinos’ initiatives have been focused on Philippine micro projects with short-term deadlines and deliverables, oftentimes plagued with mismanagement, under-implementation, and lack of local officials’ support and collaboration,” Aguilar said.

Under the Uno Por Uno Initiative, she said OFW-funded projects will now get the backing local government and this would “help speed up economic growth due to the massive power and influence of migrant investments”.

Aguilar said Moreno and the OFW groups are also mulling the setting up of a Europe-based development fund aimed at empowering countryside-based small businesses in the Philippines.

The MOU-signing was among the highlights of the Diaspora Convergence Conference held recently in Utrecht, which brought together OFW groups from The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Middle East, the USA, and the Philippines.

In his keynote address, Moreno emphasized that “migrants could do better by pushing the right buttons and partnering with government and local social cause-oriented, volunteer-based organizations” and vowed to “champion development partnerships with OFW groups among fellow governors, especially those in Northern Mindanao”.

Ambassador Romeo Arguelles also attended the conference and promised to collaborate with the conference convenors, especially in preparation for the United Nations-initiated Global Forum on Migration and Development in October 2008.

Jan Henneman of the Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry encouraged the conference participants to play the bridging role that migrants play in relation to their home and host country.

Leila Rispens-Noel of Oxfam-Novib, a Netherlands-based foundation that sponsored the event, said developments have been very encouraging. She said OFW groups have become role models for other diaspora groups, especially those from Africa, in terms of helping initiate progress back home.

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