BALINKBAYAN: Unique Online Portal for Diaspora Engagement
In discussions of the national development of the Philippines, the Filipino “diaspora” – people living abroad for a short or long period – unquestionably occupies a primary and vital place. In addition to their traditional roles as the engines of our economy, which keep it afloat, Overseas Filipinos (OF) contribute significantly to the realization of the national aspirations of the Philippines, beyond the financial aspects.
Stories of their noble deeds had been told by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), the primary agency responsible for promoting and defending the interests, rights and welfare of overseas Filipinos and to strengthen their ties with the mother country.
The localized Balinkbayan website of Iloilo province which offers services for its migrants (https://iloiloprovince.balinkbayan.gov.ph/)
Partners for Development
For decades, the numerous philanthropic activities undertaken by the Filipino diaspora have consolidated monetary, material and humanitarian aid, which has responded positively to the needs of Filipinos, especially those in communities in remote areas where access to basic social services is insufficient.
From left to right: Mr. Troy Agcanas, Assistant Secretary to Chief Financial Officer Abdulgani Macatoman, and representatives from the Institute of Electronics Engineers of the Philippines (IECEP). during MOA signing in Davao City on June 3, 2022
Overseas Filipinos have also transferred knowledge and skills acquired abroad through conferences, seminars and workshops. This transfer of knowledge and skills contributes greatly to the improvement of various academic disciplines and technical practices in the country in education, health, research and development, engineering, etc.
The CFO has promoted and supported initiatives by Filipinos abroad. From 1990 to 2021, it has provided aid worth Php 3.435 billion through the Lingkod sa Kapwa Pilipino (LINKAPIL) program, which has benefited 15.9 million people in 168 cities, towns and provinces in the Philippines. This program seeks a broader and deeper partnership between overseas Filipinos and Filipinos at home based on a common desire to advance the achievement of national development. Learn more about LINKAPIL via www.cfo-linkapil.org.ph/.
BaLinkBayan project managers and focal points of partner LGUs during the capacity building activity organized by the CFO
There is hardly a discipline or area of specialization where no Filipino has made their mark.
The advent of modern technology and communication platforms prompted the CFO to launch BaLinkBayan: a one-stop-shop online portal for diaspora engagement so that he can engage more effectively with members of the Filipino Diaspora who need to deal with Philippine government agencies and offices even though they are thousands of miles away from home.
BaLinkBayan is a government website accessible at www.balinkbayan.gov.ph.
A play on the words “link” and “balik-bayan” (returning migrants), BaLinkBayan aims to provide a comprehensive platform for OFs to engage in economic and philanthropic activities, as well as access services government online in the country from abroad.
It aims to bring together 10.2 million Filipinos in the diaspora in an integrated and comprehensive platform that taps into their knowledge, expertise, skills, networks, material and financial resources to contribute to the development of the Philippines.
The portal has three (3) key features that OFs can use: donate and volunteer, invest or start a business, and access government services online. These are the priority areas identified by Overseas Filipinos at public meetings organized by the CFO in major destination countries and territories for overseas migrants.
How OFs can get involved
BaLinkBayan connects overseas Filipinos to development-oriented diaspora initiatives in the Philippines. Connected to the CFO’s LINKAPIL program, OFs can easily and securely transfer their material and monetary donations via the platform. Donations can be used to fund community development projects, education for needy youth, livelihood start-ups, among others.
The CFO provides logistical and administrative support to donors and volunteers, such as obtaining the necessary temporary professional permits for those carrying out medical, surgical and dental assignments in the Philippines, transportation and labor in distribution of goods and the regular monitoring of projects within the framework of the programme.
Business and investment opportunity options for FOs are also described. Information and folios at the national level and the respective cities of origin of the migrants are provided.
OFs receive information on how to do business with various government agencies in the country, such as the Social Security System, the Domestic Development Pool Fund (Pag-IBIG Fund), and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
A chat plugin connected to BaLinkBayan’s official Facebook page facilitates requests for information and assistance from OFs in dealings with Philippine government agencies and foreign posts, such as local reinstatement policies and details regarding their well-being. The platform allows the Commission to quickly engage with the Filipino Diaspora through its real-time response to their concerns.
Diaspora and development partners
Recognizing the importance of collaboration and shared goals, BaLinkBayan has partnered with 38 Local Government Units (LGUs) and 8 Philippine Overseas Associations (FAOs).
The partnerships aim for the long-term and sustainable development of rural and urban areas for a prosperous Philippines. The potential of Filipinos overseas as the country’s development partners is tapped without those partners having to travel long distances and perform the rigorous physical labor to help communities in need.
The CFO has developed BaLinkBayan portals localized and led by FAO, which the project partners maintain and use to highlight their respective programs for the OF.
Among the benefits enjoyed by a BaLinkBayan partner are increased visibility of the institution’s programs and services, closer ties with overseas Filipinos in their localities, more business and investment opportunities, and philanthropic initiatives. for OFs that can contribute significantly to the development of local communities.
The partners meet regularly and participate in capacity building training to acquire skills for the technical and material management of the portal. A stakeholder meeting is held where partners can share best practices in maintaining their respective portals.
As the world gradually recovers from the scourge of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, the challenges posed by migration may increase again. CFO is committed to responding effectively by strengthening local and international cooperation, while continuously improving its digital agility through BaLinkBayan.
Learn more about Balinkbayan by visiting its website at www.balinkbayan.gov.ph. Like and follow our Facebook at www.facebook.com/cfobalinkbayan.
For collaboration and partnerships, email [email protected] or call (632) 8 552-4700 Ext. 728-730, 739.
Mag-Balinkbayan to tayo!
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Creating better opportunities for people with disabilities through more inclusive entrepreneurship
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Many businesses are still catching up with most new cultures and ways of doing things and some of these businesses are still hesitant to hire people with disabilities due to lack of funding to make their offices and equipment disability friendly.
Given this situation, I can advise people with disabilities to explore entrepreneurship. There are so many ways to adapt to running a business, given that you have the passion, the determination and the right attitude of an entrepreneur. If you have followed my column, you will now know tips for starting a business and the tools to help you.
The Philippine Chambers of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) are taking initiatives and supporting efforts to promote digitalization.
Good examples are entrepreneurs Benjie Reyes of Dencio’s Sweets and Delicacies and Harvey David Beltran of HHS Leather Goods interviewed on my television show Kabuhayang Pinoy. They both accepted the promise to go online, market and sell your products and services on social media, just like they did themselves.
It’s not about who you are, it’s about what you strive for. It is this determination and belief that you can overcome any obstacle with more than survival. If you believe you can do it, that’s passion, and you need to pursue that to connect to your dreams – whether that’s in entrepreneurship or some other livelihood that provides for your basic needs, or better , which responds to the lifestyle you have chosen.