Manila Economic and Cultural Office

Manila Economic and Cultural Office Philippine Representative Office in Taiwan

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Manila Economic and Cultural Office

Manila Economic and Cultural Office Philippine Representative Office in Taiwan

5 ways for an OFW to invest in the Philippines

Question: I have been an OFW for almost 10 years now and I think I am now ready to invest. There have been offers for me to invest in the country where I work but I prefer investing back home. Can you suggest investment options that are good for an OFW like me?— David S. via Facebook

Answer: OFWs are generally the kind of people who leave home because they want to provide for their respective families. Others are looking to broaden their life experiences by working abroad. With their time working abroad comes the idea of putting the money they’ve worked hard for to good use.

Most will find themselves putting their money in small businesses that their families can run in their stead; others will start savings accounts and allow the money they deposit to earn interest. There are other ways to grow one’s hard-earned money, such as investing.

Some people find the idea of investing daunting. The most common reaction is: “Don’t you have to study the stock market to get anything done?” There is a certain degree of studying that comes with investing, but there are a number of investment platforms available to the average OFW that are tailored fit to one’s risk profile.

A risk profile determines how aggressive someone is in making an investment, or one’s risk appetite. The first thing anyone wanting to start an investment portfolio should do is to answer a suitability assessment questionnaire. This will determine what kind of investment vehicle best applies to him.

The kind of investment vehicle you choose depends on the amount of money you are willing to risk. There are several ways to start your investment portfolio, and here’s five:

Mutual funds

Investing in a mutual fund appears to be the simplest of the options. This type of investment takes most of the work out of your hands and places it in the very capable hands of fund managers. Their job will be to grow the money you invested, without you having to monitor it constantly.

Here’s a list of mutual fund investments that you can try: ATRKE Alpha Opportunity Fund, ATRKE Equity Opportunity Fund, First Metro Save and Learn Equity Fund, Philam Strategic Growth Fund, Sun Life Prosperity Philippine Equity Fund, Soldivo Funds, ALFM.

Stock investments

Investing in publicly traded stocks requires a certain kind of aggression and some research. Buying stocks basically means becoming a shareholder in a publicly traded company. Being a shareholder means you own part of the company, but only so far as much stock that you own in said company. The bigger your stock, the more you can participate and the more you earn, depending on the company’s performance.

Getting started requires opening an account with a broker, and here’s a list of online stockbrokers accredited by the Philippine Stock Exchange: AB Capital Securities Inc., Abacus Securities Corp., Accord Capital Equities Corp., Angping & Associates Securities Inc., BPI Securities Corp., COL Financial Group Inc.,Yap Securities Inc., First Metro Securities Brokerage Corporation, RCBC Securities Inc. and Wealth Securities Inc.

Unit Investment Trust Fund (UITF)

This form of investment involves holding a certain amount of money in trust as part of the investment made. It shares a similar structure as that of mutual funds in the aspect that your money will be managed by fund managers. This is usually offered by banks and differs from mutual funds in the sense that it involves per unit investment, as opposed to shares in a mutual fund.

Here’s a partial list of banks that offer UITFs: Metrobank, BDO, Union Bank, BPI, PNB, Chinabank, Security Bank, EastWest Bank.


Given the propensity of OFWs to save their money in bank accounts, an investment vehicle that may also be available to them comes in the form of bonds. This form of investment is generally offered by large corporations and government offices (retail treasury bonds) as a means of raising funds by borrowing from the public. They have fixed maturity dates.

Here’s a few banks that also sell bonds: PNB, BDO, BPI, Metrobank.

Real estate

This type of investment isn’t necessarily unusual, but leans more toward preparing for a future home, or a place where to put up a business. This form of investment requires a higher amount of money to start with as opposed to say, mutual funds. The money invested in real estate generally means having enough to make the payments for the land that you have purchased, and the lower the interest rate, the better.

What may eventually earn money from investing in real estate is the way land use changes over the years. One can acquire property through the Register of Deeds, but make sure to check the land title for encumbrances (mortgage, debts, and the like).

These are just some of the ways that OFWs can invest in the Philippines. They take a certain amount of patience and research before picking your investment vehicle. Just remember to always invest according to your investment objectives, time frame and risk tolerance. Make sure that you also diversify your investments.

— By: Randell Tiongson, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Breaking back for a dream, but not much to show

Filipino Joe De La Rosa is working in Taipei in hopes of making his big dreams come true.

Every day, six days a week, he wakes up at 4 a.m., has breakfast and then bikes to his factory. There he cuts plywood and works — for 12 hours.

The hours are long and hard, but he does not mind.

"It's OK. I am making money and have a plan. After I finish this job, maybe I'll go to New Zealand," said De La Rosa, 27. He wants to open a restaurant there.

"I can cook, of course. Any dish, I can make it good if I have jalapenos."

So far, though, he has not had much success saving up for his future: in the three months that he has been in Taiwan, De La Rosa has yet to put aside any part of his earnings for himself.

From his monthly NT$25,000 earnings, he has to pay for his room as well as more than NT$1,800 to his Taiwanese labor broker as a service charge. By the time he completes his three-year contract, he will have paid more than NT$60,000 in such charges.

Before that, he had to pay a broker in the Philippines a one-time placement fee of 85,000 pesos (NT$59,200). To cover that, De La Rosa took a loan from a local bank which he is now paying off. Such brokerage fees are one of the main complaints from countries that Taiwan depends on for inexpensive labor.

Recently, Agusdin Subiantoro, an official from the Agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Workers, called the brokerage charges exorbitant and exploitative. Thus, Indonesia plans to start bringing back its workers from Taiwan in 2017.

But the South East Asia Group (東南亞集團行), a brokerage firm based in Taipei, defended Taiwan's service charges. Chih Ting-cheng (池庭成), chief of the group's marketing division, said the real exploitation occurs in the migrant worker's home country when local brokers collect excessive placement fees.

"We can't control the ecosystem in the home country," he said. "Brokers there sometimes charge workers far beyond what is lawful."

Taiwan's Ministry of Labor has banned the island's brokers from charging a placement fee, but allows them to levy a service fee of up to NT$1,800 per month during a contract's first year, NT$1,700 in the second and NT$1,500 in the third.

South East Asia Group charges each worker the maximum — NT$60,000 over three years, while the employer pays a further NT$6,000.

The payments go toward checks on working conditions, a 24-hour translation service, lectures on health issues and other services, Chih said.

But Betty Chen (陳容柔), a member of the Taiwan International Workers' Association, said many Taiwanese brokers do not deliver all the services they are supposed to. "Based on my understanding, their services are often perfunctory," Chen said.

"For example, brokers do need to interview workers about working conditions. They may be required to go every month, but they don't. Instead, every half year, they suddenly appear with six forms for workers to sign in a hurry."

Moreover, many of these "services" should be provided and paid for by the employer. However, it is not easy convincing the brokers and employers to shift from the status quo to a more ethical model, Chen said.

For De La Rosa, the cost of coming to Taiwan does seem high, though for now he is upbeat about his prospects. He says he's certain that he can make the system work for him.

"Next month or the month after that, I will save my money for me," he said.

"My plan is big, very big. It's high living."

— By Enru Lin, The China Post

Filipina maid captures dreams through photography

HONG KONG--From her poverty-stricken roots in a Philippine backwater, via domestic service in Hong Kong to acclaim in New York, Xyza Cruz Bacani's inspirational journey started with a camera bought with borrowed money.

The 28-year-old came to Hong Kong nine years ago to join 300,000 other women working as maids in the city, hoping to earn enough money to help fund her brother's education.

But photography has transformed her life, her images of everything from trips to the supermarket to scenes of abuse at a refuge for domestic workers earning laudatory spreads in international media and at exhibitions.

Bacani was recently named as one of the recipients of a fellowship by the Magnum Foundation, a prestigious scholarship that will allow her to study in New York for six weeks.

With that in mind, just a week ago, she quit domestic service to pursue her passion for photography. But when she first came to Hong Kong, survival was her first priority.

"The urge to survive is much bigger than the urge to do art," she told AFP in Macau where her photographs are on show as part of the city's Literary Festival.

A self-professed dreamer, she said she also saw the move to Hong Kong as an opportunity to leave her home village, nine hours' drive from the Philippine capital Manila. "It was a big contrast when I arrived at the airport, I was very excited because everything is moving fast, and the lights are wonderful, it looks so alive compared to my village," she said.

Her passion for photography really took off four years ago, when her employer — whom she describes as a "great lady" — lent her the money to buy her first camera, a Nikon D90.

"When I had (the camera), I shot landscapes to flowers to (portraits of) my mom, and then I did street photography."

From that point on Bacani took photographs at every opportunity she had, whether out buying daily produce for her employer or ranging across Hong Kong on Sundays off work.

At first she only shared her pictures with friends on Facebook — mostly shot in grainy black and white, capturing street moments in classic reportage style.

A Filipino photographer based in San Francisco saw them on Facebook and was intrigued by their originality and quality. From there she came to the attention of the New York Times Lens blog and then of acclaimed photographer Sebastiao Salgado, who praised her work at an exhibition in Hong Kong late last year.

Reflecting on her journey thus far, she marvels: "Right now it's changed my life 180 degrees, here I am having a show in Macau, going to places."

A Voice For the Unheard

With increasing concerns over the treatment of domestic helpers in Hong Kong and the region, Bacani is now turning to documentary photography to try to draw attention to abuses.

"That's what I want my photography to do, to be able to help people ... to me photography is a very powerful tool to change someone's perspective towards an issue," she said.

In the summer of 2014, Bacani documented migrant workers who had taken shelter at a refuge after suffering abuse at the hands of their employers, an experience she described as "life-changing."

"I was angry at first; it was a rollercoaster of emotion when I saw this kind of situation.

"I think I was there to be the voice of those domestic workers who remain unheard, whose voices have been muted."

Just last month a judge sentenced a Hong Kong woman to six years in jail for beating and starving her Indonesian maid in a case that made global headlines.

— By Aaron Tam, AFP (published on The China Post)