The revolution in information and communication and technology, including the rise of social media, has facilitated not only international migration, but also the delivery of services by the government for its migrants. Recognizing the potential of these modern technologies, the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) started developing innovative projects to provide better and faster services to more than 10 million Filipinos overseas and their families left behind.
The CFO now actively pursues three distinct, pioneering initiatives that maximize the benefits of the 21st century technology.
In 2013, CFO launched Balinkbayan: the Overseas Filipinos’ One Stop Online Portal for Diaspora Engagement”. The portal encourages overseas Filipinos towards investments, entrepreneurship, needs-based donation, volunteerism in their homeland.
Among its cutting-edge features are the interactive maps that allow easy access and viewing of data and information on business and investment opportunities in the provinces. One of the maps presents the various cities and towns’ competitiveness indexes to give the Overseas Filipinos an idea which are the business-friendly areas in the country. In terms of diaspora philanthropy, the interactive maps show the needs of the communities such as classroom shortages, through poverty core indicators and the conduct or the lack of foreign medical missions throughout the country.
Itanong Mo Kay Ato!
In line with the campaign against human trafficking, “Itanong Mo Kay Ato!” (“Ask the Attorney”) aims to make legal counseling accessible and convenient to Filipinos who have queries regarding human trafficking and other related cases through a web application. It is a means to reach out to Filipinos (whether in the country or outside the country) who cannot afford legal consultation on the abovementioned issues, In addition, it serves to reinforce the fight against human trafficking, “Laban kontra Human Trafficking, Laban Nating Lahat!” (“Fight against Human Trafficking. It is Everyone’s Fight!”)
Lawyers affiliated with the Arellano Law University provide legal advice in a 24/7 basis either through live chat or e-mails. All information received are kept private and confidential.
The weblink of “Itanong Mo Kay Ato” is through the 1343 24/7 action line against human trafficking, 1343: https://onlinelegalcounseling.1343actionline.ph/.
PESO Sense Mobile Application
From handy bookmarks to regular maintenance and enhancement of the PESO SENSE website to maximizing the incredible benefits and outreach of the social media platform, the financial freedom campaign is brought to a new and higher level by developing and launching 2 months ago the PESO Sense Mobile Application. This project is funded by the Western Union Foundation and supported by the UNDP.
The app will be pre-installed in selected phones of Smart and Sun Cellular purchased in the future here in the Philippines.
In addition, it has gone global as it is being supported by international telecommunication companies worldwide.
Downloadable For Free
The PESO Sense mobile application can be downloaded for free using Android phones. By November of this year, IPhone and Ipad users can download the app through Apple Store.
The mobile application can be downloaded by following these simple steps:
- Using smartphones and tablets, go to Google Playstore;
- In the search button, key in the Peso Sense Mobile App;
- When the Peso Sense Mobile App prompts in the screen, click the Install Button; and
- Once installed, you can start to sign in and continue.
Furthermore, this mobile app has the following features:
A. PESO Sense News Feeds
All posts that are posted in the PESO Sense Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pesosenseph/?ref=ts&fref=ts) are automatically synchronized and posted in this feature of the PESO Sense mobile app.
The knowledge materials that were developed by the campaign such as the bookmarks, brochures and videos are featured from time to time in the News Feeds portion of the app.
News feeds from partner agencies are also featured, including daily financial tips and entrepreneurial-related initiatives of the government. These partner agencies include Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Home Development Mutual Fund (PAG-IBIG Fund) and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
B. PESO Sense Store
This provides a free platform for products to be sold online that would increase their marketability, in and outside the country.
There is a 24 to 48 hour verification period for approval before products are posted. More than 20 products have been posted as of to date.
Moreover, products from various parts of the country that were exhibited during the International Food Exhibition (IFEX) are featured. As of now, there are 12 products currently posted in the PESO Sense Store. Some of these products include organic muscovado, balangon banana, chilly garlic oil, chilly shrimp flakes and others.
C. PESO Sense Bills
The PESO Sense Bills feature allows overseas Filipinos and on-line users to directly pay household utilities, such as MERALCO and MAYNILAD.
For example, in paying a MERALCO bill, one has to key in the reference number found in his/her monthly bill.
The application also serves as a payment gateway for Social Security System (SSS), Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHILHEALTH), and Home Mutual Development Fund (PAG-IBIG).
The online payment mechanism can be completed through the use of any credit card, and Bancnet affiliated debit cards.
As proof of successful or completed payment, a user will receive confirmation of payments in two ways:
- A notification message or prompt within the mobile application; and
- An official receipt that will be forwarded to the user’s email address.
Payment gateways will soon be available for medical and tuition fees in some selected hospitals and schools.
The PESO SENSE mobile app is still on the stage of perfecting some of the technical features of the payment options since it was only launched last August.
D. PESO Sense Remittance Diary
This is a tool for overseas Filipinos to keep track, record and monitor the remittances they send back to their families in the Philippines.
As of October 11, (in a period of one month and a half) 1,208 already downloaded the mobile app. The users are coming from the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Singapore, Kuwait, Bahrain, United States of America, Canada, and South Korea. 58 percent are male while 42 percent are female.
The PESO Sense Mobile Application seeks to fully deliver one of its intended aims – to reach digitally our overseas Filipinos worldwide for their financial education and eventually for them to use digital finance in a more comprehensive manner.
All these initiatives of CFO in harnessing technology to empower overseas Filipinos and their beneficiaries are reflective of the recent success of the team from UP Diliman at an international competition on development policy in Switzerland.
“The Advancing Development Goals International Contest for Graduate Students”, more commonly known as the “Geneva Challenge”, is hosted each year by the Graduate School of International and Development Studies. The 45 finalists were students from leading global universities, including the London School of Economics and Columbia University.”
The UP team’s feat seeks to harness the potential of mobile app to assist migrant returnees, tagged by the members as the “Integrated Return Migrant App”. It seeks to extend a variety of programs to returning migrants, including financial literacy and psychological counselling. Because these are very much parallel with the initiatives taken by CFO, it intends to touch base with the winners to explore the possibility of partnering with them.
Source: Benitez, L. (2015), UP graduate students tops int'l dev contest, Rappler.
Press Release submitted by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas
Date of Press Release: 28 October 2015
 Saudi Arabia (Zain Saudi Arabia); UAE (Etisalat, DU); Qatar (Ooreddo); Singapore (M1 Limited, Singtel, Strahub); Kuwait (Zain); USA (AT&T, Verizon); Canada (Bell Mobility); South Korea (KT, LG Plus, SK Telecoms)
 IFEX stands as the biggest showcase of ethnic and specialty food, tropical fruits, vegetables, fresh sea food, halal certified products as well as natural, organic, and functional food products in Asia.