ABU DHABI // Like many expatriates, one of the main aims of the 600,000 Filipinos living in the UAE is to save money.
The Philippine Embassy is now pushing to increase the financially literacy of Filipinos and prepare them to reintegrate with their communities upon their return.
"Sixty per cent of the Filipino expatriate population are professionals," said the ambassador, Grace Princesa. "If there is interest, understanding and commitment among them, anything is possible."
Ernesto Refugio, 57, a civil engineer who has lived in Abu Dhabi for 19 years, plans to set up a business in his hometown of Antique when he retires in three years.
"Filipinos in the UAE should learn how to save and invest their hard-earned money," he said. "Many are in jail because of credit-card debts and some decide to flee the country without paying their outstanding banks loans."
Atikha, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that provides economic and social services to overseas Filipino workers and their families, is targeting people like Mr Refugio to help train others to save and invest.
In January last year, the Ministry of Labour ran a financial literacy "training of trainers" event in Dubai for migrants from the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
"Atikha's module was chosen because it also addressed family issues," said Estrella Dizon-Anonuevo, the NGO's executive director. "Those back home are draining the family's resources, so we introduced strategies to address these issues."
Since then, Filipino community leaders in the UAE who attended the seminars have run sessions discussing the basic concepts of saving, investing and borrowing.
"Our challenge was where and how we can reach out to a large audience," said Ms Dizon-Anonuevo. "So migrant leaders are being trained and they echo what they have learned to others."
Atikha's Pinoy Wise Movement, a campaign to encourage Filipinos and their families to save and invest, will officially launch in the UAE in November.
"We have chosen to pilot the project in the UAE this year because the host government has been supportive of our programme," said Ms Dizon-Anonuevo. "The Ministry of Labour invited us last year to come here, and to be able to launch it requires a lot of resources."
Referring to the tendency of some families to rely on remittances for their month-to-month spending, Ms Dizon-Anonuevo said: "The family left behind in the Philippines should understand that the migrant also needs to save.
"We're saddened that after all the hard work and sacrifices abroad, the migrants aren't successful and return home without any savings."
A series of seminars on how to wisely use cash earned in the UAE will be held from 8.30am to 6pm this Friday, and on July 27, at the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi.