One of the nation’s most prominent Fililpinas, Senator Cynthia Villar is behind one of its most active foundations helping overseas Filipino workers
Cynthia Villar, Senator of the 16th Congress of the Philippines and Managing Director and co-founder of the Villar Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps empower Filipinos trapped in poverty at home and abroad, discusses helping overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the banking sector, and encouraging social advancement.
How are you providing assistance to OFWs?
I attended entrepreneurial training for repatriated OFWs. The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, the Department of Labor and Employment, the National Capital Region, and Villar SIPAG (Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation & Governance) are doing it right now. I am telling them that we have to do this nationwide. Our plan is to do it all over the country because overseas Filipinos are from all over the country. In our foundation, we do repatriation, medical and livelihood assistance, and training. We are trying to help them to put up a business with their savings, so they have something to go back to after working hard abroad.
Could you give us some details about the Senate Bill you co-authored to liberalize the banking sector?
There are two provisions in the law. First, the Philippines will allow 100% foreign ownership of banks, in one entry mode provided that the aggregate ownership of the banking system will be 60% Filipinos. The second provision is the ownership of real estate properties of foreign banks in the Philippines. Foreign ownership of land is not allowed under the Philippine Constitution. But under this law, foreign banks can take possession of real estate properties forfeited from real estate mortgages for five years, wherein they have to transfer the properties to Filipino nationals. Otherwise, the foreign bank will pay a fine every year. This will enable banks to engage in real estate mortgaging, which is very popular in the Philippines.
What is the real impact that the government’s financial literacy program is having on farmers?
If you provide scholarships, the farmers will use them. We need to give more budget to agricultural training and I am now promoting it all over in the Philippines. We will produce better farmers. They will learn how to be more productive, how to manage finances, and how to mechanize. We can also create a more productive agricultural sector in the process. I think it is a matter of imagining what you can do with the resources of government.
How do you get the private sector involved in these types of projects?
The government should provide the direction for the private sector, especially the foundations of companies doing CSR projects, and other NGOs. We can show them the models that work and ask them to replicate them around the country.