By Corina Oliquino

A webinar conducted recently and streamed live on Facebook by the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Institute for Labor Studies (ILS) and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Singapore for up to 80 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) found home and internet-based jobs are among the best career alternatives for those returning to the Philippines for good.

“Virtual career allows one to work at the comfort of home, earn different currencies and serve different businesses,” webinar resource speaker, marketing strategist and published author Ann Kristine Peñaredondo said, noting “virtual careers sometimes create misconceptions, doubts, and fears as they are novel and have not been fully explored yet by many people.”

Peñaredondo added that many of those who chose not to go into virtual careers became successful.

She noted that writers, accountants, bloggers, advertisers, bookkeepers, coders, software engineers, illustrators, videographers, and many other skilled professionals can build their virtual careers if they so wish.

The webinar also heard from former OFWs Lyn Nafarette and Tina Lanipa who shared how they successfully shifted to virtual careers which allowed them to earn as much when they were working abroad while staying with their families.

Labor Attaché Saul De Vries, on the other hand, stressed the importance of the webinar, which revolved around the topic “Paano maging OFW ng hindi lumalabas ng ‘Pinas?” in light of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

“Virtual careers are alternative options for those who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 as well as those who do not want to work away from their families,” De Vries said.

Meanwhile, ILS Executive Director Ahmma Charisma Satumba said the market for virtual work is open, wide, and deep and can provide vast opportunities for OFWs and other workers.

320,000 OFWs repatriated

In a report by the Philippine News Agency (PNA), DOLE on November 22, said the government has already sent home close to 320,000 displaced OFWs to their respective provinces.

In its report by DOLE Sec. Silvestre Bello III, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said 319,333 OFWs were transported to their respective provinces as of November 21 after they were cleared and tested negative of COVID-19.

For November, a total of 38,516 OFWs were transported to their destinations.

Bello said OWWA, which provided hotel accommodation and food while the OFWs wait for the result of their COVID-19 tests upon arrival in Manila, “was relentless in looking after the needs of displaced OFWs.”

“There is no stopping the government from extending the assistance to our dear OFWs. We have also enhanced our livelihood programs for the reintegration of our returning heroes,” Bello said, noting DOLE’s foreign posts continue to monitor the condition of OFWs and provide assistance in their jurisdictions.

Bello added that a good number of OFWs who contracted COVID-19 have already recovered, citing separate reports by POLO.

“We are glad to note that we have a very good recovery rate among our Covid-stricken OFWs,” he said, noting of the 111 infected OFWs in Israel, 103 had already recovered while there was no fresh report of mortality among the 3,577 afflicted OFWs in Qatar.

In Europe, 108 OFWs had recovered in Spain, eight in France, five in Portugal, and six in Andorra. There were 82 recoveries in Germany, while the rest are still recovering. All seven confirmed cases among Filipinos in Belgium have recovered, while the two cases each in the Netherlands and Luxembourg have also recovered.

In Russia, all 29 OFWs who contracted the virus have all recovered.

“It is my ardent hope that no more OFWs get infected and become sick of COVID while they continue to sacrifice being away from their family,” Bello said.

As of November 23, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported no new recovery and fatality among Filipinos abroad infected with COVID-19 while the number of infections rose to 11,560 as one new case was recorded.

There are now 3,248 active COVID-19 cases among Filipinos abroad, with 7,478 already recovered while 834 have died.