September 19, 2022 | 2:24pm
NEW JERSEY — Invoking the bayanihan spirit, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Monday called on overseas Filipinos to help achieve “meaningful change” back home, saying the nation needs them as it strives to attain economic development.
Marcos said Filipinos here in the US and in other parts of the world still play a “very critical role” in the economic transformation of the Philippines.
“Even if you are very far from the Philippines, I am telling you this. Your beloved Philippines still needs you especially now,” Marcos said during a meeting with the Filipino community here.
“Our beloved Motherland needs you. I stand here before you today to invoke the quintessential Filipino spirit, the spirit of bayanihan (communal unity) and to challenge each and every one of you to contribute meaningful change back home,” he added.
OFWs urged to invest in Philippines, send people home
Marcos urged overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to invest in the Philippines and to undertake projects that would benefit their fellow countrymen. He encouraged them to buy condominium units and other real estate properties in the Philippines and to start their own businesses.
“These will all contribute to (creating) much needed jobs and build a better life for all our people. And if you know someone who is interested (in opening) a business in the Philippines, let our embassies or our consulates know so we can pursue and finally close the deal. As I said, every little bit counts,” the president said.
“Let us follow in the footsteps of a number of exceptional Filipino members of the Filipino community across the United States who have been carrying out very impactful projects for the benefit of our kababayans back home,” he added.
Marcos called on agriculturists abroad to assist in efforts to achieve food security, citing the need to prepare the Philippines for crises that may affect food supply like armed conflicts and pandemics.
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Overseas workers can encourage their young relatives back home to take agriculture-related college courses, ask their families to take care of their idle lands and develop them for agriculture and plant ube and calamansi, which are in demand abroad but whose supply is very limited, the president added.
“Attaining food sovereignty is not impossible with your help. I count on our agriculturists, our specialists abroad to contribute to this endeavor. I call on you and other Filipinos overseas to invest in agribusiness ventures in the Philippines and become what they call now agripreneurs, yourselves, to help revitalize our countryside,” Marcos said.
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The president likewise appealed to Filipino scientists, engineers and technical experts to return to the Philippines under the Balik Scientist program of the science department.
“Let us reverse the brain drain. Ibalik natin ang galing ng Pilipino sa Pilipinas. (Let us bring back the talents of Filipinos to the Philippines). And help bring the Philippines to heights it has not reached before,” he said.
Marcos also urged teachers, doctors, nurses and other professionals in the US to continue sharing what they have learned when they come home.
Call for unity, praise for overseas healthcare workers
Marcos also asked Filipinos to identify the things they can do for the Philippines as he reiterated his call for unity, one of his key messages during the 2022 presidential race.
“When you get home after this gathering, I would like for you to list down three things that you can do for your country and commit yourself to make them happen. We have a long and bumpy road, full of risk and perils ahead of us as we face this turbulent time in global history,” Marcos said.
“But as your president, I remain confident that with your three things, no matter how small they are, those three things will make us succeed if we all agree to unite and to work together… We cannot commit progress in our Motherland if we are divided,” he added.
Marcos cited the key role of OFWs in the economy, saying their remittances helped support post-pandemic recovery efforts. Money sent home by expatriate Filipinos totaled $34.88 billion in 2021 from $33.19 billion two years ago, surpassing the previous record of $33.47 billion in 2019. About 40 percent of the remittances came from the US.
“When you sent remittances, I know you were thinking about helping your families. But even if you did not feel it, you contributed much to the economy of the Philippines,” the president said.
“At siguro hindi lang malaki ang naitulong, binuhay ninyo ang ekonomiya ng Pilipinas (Perhaps you did not only contribute much. You revived the economy of the Philippines,” he added.
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Marcos praised Filipino workers anew for their diligence, competence, and good work attitude, qualities that he said are enhancing the image of the Philippines abroad. He also paid tribute to the Filipino nurses in New York who died taking care of COVID-19 patients.
According to him, Filipino nurses make up four percent of all registered nurses in the US. A third of the more than 200 nurses who died from the virus were Filipinos. In New York City alone, at least 30 Filipino healthcare workers succumbed to the virus, Marcos said.
“I take this opportunity to extend my condolences to the grieving families and friends here and back home. I can promise you that this heroism of yours, of our countrymen will not fade into obscurity. Their legacy (lives) on as they continue to inspire our countrymen to show the world what it means to truly be Filipino,” the president added.