By Quay Evano
FOR the first time in the history of overseas employment for Filipinos and perhaps a first in the Middle East and the rest of the world, a foundation has been created by the OFWs (in the UAE) for the OFWs (in the Middle East) -- to aid them during harsh financial times.
The foundation was also created to promote entrepreneurship, to engage in fundraising activities, to give scholarships to children of low-income Filipino families and provide money to Filipinos stricken with life-threatening illnesses or who are victims of calamities and natural disasters.
“The Filipino Expatriates in the UAE Foundation Inc., also known as FILEX Foundation was established so that in our own moments of personal need, we have a foundation we Filipino expats can easily go to for help. No one else can really help the OFWs but the OFWs themselves, so it is high time we start preparing ourselves for our future and supporting ourselves. Even if we are abroad, or back home in the Philippines, the foundation will become the common interest we will work for, to gather and to sustain and proudly say that it is our own charitable organization. There are so many charitable organizations in the Philippines but there is really none for the OFWs. Finally, there is one now,” Dick Orense, Chairman of the Interim Board of Trustees, said.
The FILEX Foundation, which is a non-stock and non-profit corporation under the laws of the Philippines, was duly registered at and approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission in Manila on June 25, 2008.
Membership is open to all Filipinos with a payment of a one-time fee of AED (Dirhams) 30 or US$ 8. Overseas Filipino Workers with a UAE residence visa need to pay a yearly fee of Dhs 15 for the group accident insurance security which covers accidental death, total accident disability, payment for medical fees and repatriation of remains to the Philippines.
“We really aimed to have the lowest membership fee we could possibly have and the lowest insurance fee so that it will easy for our fellow Filipinos to become members because we know they work blood, sweat and tears for every dirham they earn here,” Orense said.
One of the main purposes in creating the foundation is “to establish a funding facility whose capital fund, which to be known as the Foundation Capital Fund or FCF, is designed to grow and expand through time, with only its interests or earnings, to be known as the Foundation Disposable Fund or FDF, are utilized to assist the Filipino expatriates in the UAE or those who are no longer in the UAE and who are in great need for financial aid or help.
This premise is what started the realization of a foundation for OFWs to happen. About five years ago, as the newly-appointed Philippine Ambassador to the UAE, Libran Cabactulan was approached by a Filipina, who had a terminal illness, asking for financial help.
The Philippine Embassy and the whole Filipino community rallied to help her as much as they can but eventually and unfortunately, the Filipina died. But out of her death, the FILEX dream was born.
“We ran out of time. That was our main problem. It took us a lot of time to get the money she required for her operation, it took time to make the Filipino community raise more funds, and time was something she didn’t have. I thought, if only we had enough money stored somewhere that will only be accessible for OFWs at any given time to help them, then we could stop this scenario from ever happening again. And there are so many of these kinds problems OFWs face everyday,” explained Ambassador Cabactulan.
In 2004, Ambassador Cabactulan convened a meeting of Filipino community leaders in Abu Dhabi signifying his vision to form a body that would become an institution which every Overseas Filipino in need could access for support and assistance.
In 2005, Filipino community leaders submitted their respective proposals and copies of their existing constitutions and by-laws followed up with regular meetings with the Ambassador.
In 2006, Ambassador Cabactulan selected 21 Filcom leaders who were responsible for initiating and shaping the foundation. In 2007, the election for the Board of Trustees was held at the Ambassador’s residence and in 2008, FILEX deposited one million pesos as trust fund at the Land Bank of the Philippines as a requirement for registration as a non-stock and non-profit organization.
“Assistance given by the government is not enough, especially with the fact that the numbers of Filipinos in the Middle East is growing by leaps and bounds. Five years ago, there was around 200,000 Filipinos in the UAE. Now we are more than 350,000. In Saudi Arabia, there are almost more than one million Filipinos now. I realized that there’s a great urgent need for adequate extra sufficient assistance to be accorded to the OFWs. I just felt that it was required for us Filipinos abroad to do something,” Ambassador Cabactulan said.
“What we’re launching with FILEX is a process, a system that will evolve into an institution that’s long lasting, self-sustaining and durable. I conceived it but it now belongs to all Filipino expatriates. My dream is that every Filipino who will go abroad will become a member of FILEX so that they will have some sort of protection for we don’t know what lies in our future and what will happen to our lives in a foreign land. Filex Foundation is a “pader na masasandalan mo” in times of need,” Ambassador
At present, the Filex Foundation has 1,600 members since the official launch in August but the officers’ goal is to reach 100,000 members within a year.
The FILEX Foundation has already been praised by the UAE’s Minister of Social Affairs, Mariam Mohammed Khalfan al Roumi for its initiative in helping Filipinos in the country.
The foundation has also created its own website.
(Photos by Quay Evano)