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On 31 January 2022, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Regional Welfare Office 1 (OWWA RWO1) conducted its first Press Conference for the year at its streaming room. As the agency continuously promotes its various programs and services, OWWA RWO1 sees the significance and impact of disseminating the Tulong Pangkabuhayan sa Pag-unlad ng Samahang OFWs (Tulong PUSO) to the public.  OWWA RWO1 invited media partners from different provinces across the region. The Tulong PUSO press conference was simultaneously streamed via Zoom. Also, present during the press conference were information officers, writers or even radio announcers from the Provincial Government of La Union, Pangasinan and Ilocos Sur and as well as a representative from the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).

The program started with an invocation followed by the brief welcome and message from OWWA RWO1’s OIC-Regional Director, Mr. Gerardo C. Rimorin. Hence, the overview of the press conference was provided by Ms. Rhoda Nilda Placida R. Lee, OIC-Programs and Services Division (PSD). The program proper started with the brief introduction to community organizing which is a pre-requisite and a vital part of the social preparation of any interested organization or association for Tulong PUSO. After that, Ms. Iries Sarmiento-Mazon, RTU-NRCO Head delivered and elaborated the components and scope in qualifying for the said program.

Tulong Pangkabuhayan sa Pag-unlad ng Samahang OFWs (Tulong PUSO) is a one-time livelihood financial grant assistance that supports business plan for both start-up and expansion of the OFW Groups, duly organized by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This said program was revived and redefined to provide immediate livelihood support to many OFWs and their families during this time of pandemic.  As of 31 December 2021, OWWA RWO1 has already released and awarded P3,875,999.00  to 9 OFW associations including a cooperative across the region with 574 total members. Moreover, OWWA RWO1 is set to monitor and award the next tranches of some approved OFW associations in March 2022.

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Ms. Caren Grace  R. Cabanyan, Information Officer from PIA asked about the scope and coverage of the qualified members per organization or association. Wherein Ms. Mazon mentioned that, an association should have at least 80% OWWA-member OFWs and/or family and 20% Undocumented OFWs and/or family or at least 80% are OWWA-member OFWs. While Mr. Rudolph P. Madera, a former OFW from Saudi Arabia, now a radio anchor from Bombo Radyo (La Union), asked about the programs and services for those OFWs who were displaced and repatriated due to COVID-19. As mentioned, DOLE-AKAP, a one time special financial assistance for those COVID-affected OFWs whether documented or undocumented. Highlighted also during the press conference was Project EASE, an OWWA project which provides educational assistance of Php 10,000.00 per annum for a maximum of 4 years in college level, to a qualified dependent of an active OWWA member-OFW at the time of repatriation to the country from the declaration of the COVID-19 outbreak on 01 February 2020. As Mr. Madera was a former OFW affected by the pandemic, he shared and testified that he himself felt the importance of being an OWWA member since he applied in December 2020 and he was able to avail of the DOLE-AKAP in January 2021.

This said press conference is one way of intensifying program dessimination for Tulong PUSO providing hope to those OFWs who were displaced or affected by COVID-19 pandemic. Later on, OIC-Regional Director Rimorin reminded the viewers and listeners about the importance of having an active OWWA membership most especially during this time of pandemic where a lot of Filipinos abroad are being displaced and distressed-  highlighting the famous catchphrase of OWWA, “Sa OWWA, ang Miyembro, Protektado!”

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Nevertheless, the press conference was closed by an  endearing message from OIC-SAO, Ms. Marissa C. Naboye, encouraging the OFWs and their families to continuously support and be updated with the different programs and services of OWWA through their official social media sites.

With this, OWWA RWO1 is thankful that through this activity, doors were opened for a strengthened advertisement of its advocacies to its clients and to the public through its media partners and agencies. Thus, this activity paved way for OWWA RWO1 to receive invites from different media partners for series of scheduled radio and other social media guestings promoting not just the various Reintegration Programs and Services but also programs from the Education and Training Unit (ETU) for free.