BALINKBAYAN: One-Stop Online Portal for Diaspora Engagement – The Manila Times

Read this in The Manila Times digital edition.
In discussions of Philippine national development, the Filipino “diaspora” – people living overseas for a short or long period of time – indisputably holds a prime and vital position. Apart from their traditional roles as boosters of our economy, which keep it afloat, overseas Filipinos (OFs) contribute significantly to achieving the Philippines' national aspirations, beyond the financial.
Stories of their noble deeds had been told by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), the lead agency tasked to promote and uphold the interests, rights, and welfare of overseas Filipinos and strengthen their ties with the Motherland.

The Iloilo province's localized Balinkbayan website that features services for its migrants (https://iloiloprovince.balinkbayan.gov.ph/)

The Iloilo province’s localized Balinkbayan website that features services for its migrants (https://iloiloprovince.balinkbayan.gov.ph/)


Partners for Development
For decades, the numerous philanthropic activities undertaken by the Filipino Diaspora consolidated monetary, material, and humanitarian assistance, which positively addressed the needs of Filipinos, most especially those in communities in far-flung areas where access to basic social services is inadequate.

From left to right: Mr. Troy Agcanas, CFO Undersecretary Abdulgani Macatoman, and representatives from the Institute of Electronics Engineers of the Philippines (IECEP). during the MOA signing in Davao City on June 3, 2022

From left to right: Mr. Troy Agcanas, CFO Undersecretary Abdulgani Macatoman, and representatives from the Institute of Electronics Engineers of the Philippines (IECEP). during the MOA signing in Davao City on June 3, 2022

Overseas Filipinos have also transferred the knowledge and skills they acquired abroad through lectures, seminars, and workshops. This knowledge and skills transfer 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 assisted initiatives by overseas Filipinos. From 1990 to 2021, it extended assistance amounting to Php 3.435 billion through the Lingkod sa Kapwa Pilipino (LINKAPIL) Program, which benefitted 15.9 million individuals from 168 cities, municipalities, and provinces in the Philippines. This program seeks a broader and deeper partnership between overseas Filipinos and Filipinos in the home country based on a common desire to advance the realization of national development. Know more about LINKAPIL thru www.cfo-linkapil.org.ph/.
In terms of the Philippines' international stature, many overseas Filipinos have drawn the spotlight for their brilliance in their respective fields of interest. These outstanding Filipinos have been recognized through the Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas (PAFIOO). These individuals and organizations become notable ambassadors of Filipino culture and national identity in their communities abroad. Visit its website at www.presidentialawards.cfo.gov.ph.

BaLinkBayan Project Officers and Focal Persons from Partner LGUs during the Capacity Building Activity organized by CFO

BaLinkBayan Project Officers and Focal Persons from Partner LGUs during the Capacity Building Activity organized by CFO

There is hardly a discipline or an area of specialization where no Filipino has made a mark.
The advent of modern technology and communication platforms prompted CFO to launch BaLinkBayan: A One-Stop Online Portal for Diaspora Engagement so it can engage more efficiently and effectively with members of the Filipino diaspora needing to transact with agencies and offices of the Philippine government even while they are thousands of miles away from home.
BaLinkBayan Portal
BaLinkBayan is a government website that may be accessed at www.balinkbayan.gov.ph.
A play on the words “link” and “balik-bayan” (returning migrants), BaLinkBayan seeks to provide a comprehensive platform for OFs to engage in economic and philanthropic activities, as well as to access online government services in the country from abroad.
It aims to bring together 10.2 million Filipinos in the diaspora into 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 may utilize: donate and volunteer, invest or start a business, and access online government services. These are the priority areas identified by overseas Filipinos during town hall meetings conducted by CFO in top migrant destination countries and territories abroad.
How OFs may engage
BaLinkBayan links overseas Filipinos to development-oriented diaspora initiatives in the Philippines. Connected to the CFO's LINKAPIL program, OFs can easily and safely transfer their material and monetary donations through the platform. The donations may be used in funding community development projects, education of indigent youth, livelihood start-ups, among others.
CFO provides logistics and administrative support to donors and volunteers, such as getting the necessary temporary professional permits for those conducting medical, surgical, and dental missions in the Philippines, transportation, and manpower in the distribution of goods, and regular monitoring of projects under the program.
Options for business and investment opportunities for OFs are also outlined. Information and folios at the national level and the migrants' respective hometowns are provided.
OFs are offered information on how to transact business with different government agencies in the country, such as the Social Security System, Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG Fund), and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
A chat plug-in connected to the official Facebook page of BaLinkBayan facilitates OFs' requests for information and assistance in transacting with Philippine government agencies and foreign posts, such as local reintegration policies and details relevant to their welfare. The platform serves as an avenue for the Commission to swiftly 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 partnered with 38 local government units (LGUs) and 8 Filipino Associations Overseas (FAOs).
The partnerships pursue the sustainable and long-term development of rural and urban areas for a prosperous Philippines. The potential of overseas Filipinos to be development partners of the country is tapped without requiring these partners to travel long distances and do the rigorous physical work to assist communities in need.
CFO developed localized and FAOs-led BaLinkBayan portals, which project partners maintain and employ in highlighting their respective programs for OFs.
Among the benefits a BaLinkBayan partner enjoys are increased visibility of the institution's programs and services, closer ties with overseas Filipinos from their localities, more business and investment opportunities, and philanthropic initiatives for OFs that may significantly contribute to the development of local communities.
External Partnerships
Partners meet regularly and participate in capacity-building training to acquire the skills for the technical and material management of the portal. A stakeholders' meeting is conducted 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, challenges posed by migration may rise again. CFO is committed to responding effectively by strengthening local and international cooperation, while continuously improving its digital agility through BaLinkBayan.
Know 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 na tayo!
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Creating Greater Opportunities for Persons With Disabilities through a More Inclusive Entrepreneurship
Many persons with disability (PWD) want to be financially/economically independent and be able to contribute whatever they can to our country.

Many companies are still catching up with most of the new cultures and way of things and some of these companies are still hesitant to hire PWDs for lack of funding to make their offices and equipment PWD friendly.
Given this situation, I can advise PWDs to explore entrepreneurship. There are so many ways one may adapt to running a business, given that you have the passion, the determination, and the right attitude of an entrepreneur. If you have been following my column, you will now know tips in starting a business and the tools to help you.
The Philippine Chambers of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) is 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 in my TV Show Kabuhayang Pinoy. They both agreed in the promise of going online, in marketing and selling your products and services in social media, as they had done themselves.
It is not a matter of who you are, it is a matter of what you strive to do. It is that determination and belief that you can cross any hurdle with more than survival. If you believe that you can do it, that is passion, and you have to pursue that to connect to your dreams – be it in entrepreneurship or some other livelihood that sustains your basic needs, or better, that provides for your chosen lifestyle.

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