IF Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte would have his way, he wants the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to create a special office that would cater to startup entrepreneurs as part of fresh government efforts to help overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were displaced from the Middle East owing to lack of job opportunities there.
Villafuerte also wants local chief executives to initiate ordinances that would provide incentives to startup enterprises.
Through these proposals, Villafuerte hopes the government would be able to kickstart the government’s stalled Philippine Roadmap for Digital Startups, which is supposed to come up with at least 500 startups in the country with total funding of US$200 million and a valuation of US$2 billion by 2020.
“My proposal will not only benefit our returning OFWs but also other budding entrepreneurs who have come up with innovative products, ideas or business models that need adequate funding to take off,” said Villafuerte, who was a successful young entrepreneur before joining politics in the early 2000’s.
His statement was in reference to a report about the DTI partnering with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in coming up with entrepreneurship programs for Filipinos who were repatriated from the Middle East.
“Many of our OFWs, who have accumulated a vast amount of experience and knowledge from working overseas, have a lot of potential to become successful entrepreneurs,” said Villafuerte, who is vice chairperson of the House committee on local government.
He cited for instance, the case of Myrna Padilla, a former housekeeper in Hong Kong who is now the president and CEO of Mynd Consulting and Outsourcing Phils., which is among the biggest business process outsourcing firms in Davao City.
Another former OFW, Bong Clavel, who now owns Z-Jay Marketing, the biggest agri-veterinary supplies store in Alabel, Sarangani, used to be a boiler operator in the Marshall Islands. After struggling with problems with his startups, Clavel was able to expand his business to include a fleet of minicabs, tuna fishing boats.
Villafuerte said OFWs like Clavel and Padilla would find it easier to hurdle challenges to their startups if a bill he had filed in the Congress were to become a law.
Under Villafuerte’s House Bill No. 2882, the DTI is mandated to create a special Startup Office with an initial allocation of P100 million from the Department’s funds, and is allowed to accept private sector contributions and donations subject to certain implementing rules and regulations that would be promulgated once the measure is enacted into law.
A startup website shall also be developed and maintained by the DTI to serve as the primary source of information with regard to the implementation of his proposed startup law, Villafuerte said.
Local government units are also encouraged under the bill to come up with their own rules and regulations that will provide incentives to startup enterprises in their respective localities.