BaLinkBayan is an Overseas Filipinos’ (OFs) one-stop online portal for diaspora engagement, offering an integrated and unique platform to re-engage OFs with the Philippines through the D2D program of the CFO with the support and help of several government agencies such as the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
A locally-funded national e-government project, the term BaLinkBayan is a play on the Filipino words Balikbayan (returning migrant), balik (return), bayan (country) and the English word “link,” that refers to the World Wide Web. As a portal for diaspora engagement, it seeks to bring together 10.24 million Filipinos in the diaspora into an integrated and comprehensive platform that taps into their knowledge, expertise, skills, networks, material and financial resources to contribute to the development of the Philippines.
Background and Problem
Arising from the provisions on migration and development detailed in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011-2016 to ensure better services for overseas Filipinos for the country’s pursuit of inclusive and sustainable growth, the BaLinkBayan portal responds to the need for diaspora-driven development, especially given the opportunity presented by the steady inflow of remittances and the increased international trust in the Philippines as an investment destination. This allows overseas Filipinos, whose remittances constitute almost 10% of the Philippines’ annual GDP, to serve as catalysts not just for the continued development of the Philippine economy, but for improvements in the quality of life of Filipinos, especially the poor and disadvantaged.
Solution and Impact
By providing direct access to five key interventions of the D2D program implemented by CFO, BaLinkBayan provides a platform for overseas Filipinos to become partners with local communities and contribute to the achievement of their goals. The five interventions accessible through BaLinkBayan are the Alay Dunong or Brain Gain program, the BalikTuro or Education Exchange program, Diaspora Investment, Diaspora Philanthropy or Lingkod sa Kapwa Pilipino (LINKAPIL), and Medical Mission Coordination.
Users of the BaLinkBayan portal will be able to contribute to any of these five interventions by accessing the site’s features. The Start a Business page allows users to create their own business or invest in local enterprises, while the Donate and Volunteer page gives access to opportunities for the sharing of knowledge, skills, or resources. The View Interactive Maps provides information on local products, business opportunities, and needs, identifying opportunities for users to help and contribute to the development of any area in the country. Finally, the Access Government Online Services page links users to national government agencies and their services.
- Increased awareness on Migration and Development by Local Government Units (LGUs), migrants and their families left behind
The LGUs were provided technical assistance and modest support towards the establishment of Migrant Resource Centers, migrant helpdesks, council or similar body that would cater specifically to the needs of overseas Filipinos and their families left behind. LGUs were also trained to conduct seminars, trainings and workshops aimed at empowering and supporting the families of migrants. In conjunction with other existing programs of CFO, these duty bearers were capacitated to include migration in their local investment and development plans using BaLinkBayan as a possible platform.
Filipino migrants are also informed of opportunities where they can contribute back to the country, specifically but not limited to their hometown. Aside from giving donations, evidence of a deeper and stronger engagement with the Philippines through the portal are still being assessed such as investment activities, long term skills transfer programs, and the like.
- Fostered transparent and efficient transfer of diaspora philanthropy through its ‘Donate and Volunteer’ feature
By incorporating the online system of CFO’s LINKAPIL Program in the BaLinkBayan website, overseas Filipinos are provided with an easy, transparent and efficient mechanism for the transfer of various forms of resources to support small-scale, high-impact projects that address the country’s social and economic development needs. Donors are encouraged to extend help strategically on a needs-basis through the use of available references (e.g. maps/profiles).
- Created synergies through partnerships and cooperation
Given the local dimension of migration, BaLinkBayan forged partnerships with twelve (12) national government agencies, twelve (12) LGUs and thirty seven (37) Philippine Embassies and Consulates. These partnerships ensure that the project and its partners effectively collaborate and cooperate in providing opportunities and engagement for overseas Filipinos, especially in the areas of diaspora investment and philanthropy, medical missions, volunteer work, educational exchanges and technology transfers are offered.
- Capacitated local governments through knowledge management
In order to fully integrate BaLinkBayan to partner LGUs, project point-persons and relevant stakeholders, information and communications technology training (ICT) were conducted. Prior to this, a synchronization training was also conducted for all project programmers to ensure provision of effective ICT infrastructure. Project managers and officers also underwent social media training and coaching to properly promote BaLinkBayan in social media which are necessary to increase engagement that will later on translate to the achievement of desired results of the project.
- “An OFW need not send money to their families or relatives in the Philippines to pay for their taxes, but instead pay online by using their credit card or debit card. They can just go online by using their foreign credit VISA card or debit card. This is the non-face-to-face payment of the real property taxes (RPT) without having to go to the cashier or municipal treasurer’s office, but instead just log-in to the internet.” –Development Bank of the Philippines
- “The CFO made a one-stop portal to help workers abroad in equipping themselves with proper information about making a sustainable source of income in the country. The BaLinkBayan online portal offers education for OFWs about the important concepts in business such as investment, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, and volunteerism.” –ANC, On The Money
- “The LGU is also committed to serve the general public including the overseas Filipinos with the BaLinkBayan website as a vehicle to establish linkages and strengthen ties between the City of Masbate and the Overseas Filipinos.” –Masbate City LGU
- “…CFO and the Provincial Government of Pangasinan aim towards the full development of OFW and their families, it is seen that the BaLinkBayan is an effective way to achieve the goals of the Provincial Government to effect full development for OFWs, their families and their community.” –Pangasinan Provincial Government
- “…with more that twelve (12) thousand OFWs, excluding migrants which are unaccounted, the implementation of the program “BaLinkBayan: Overseas Filipinos One Line Portal for Diaspora Engagement” would be of great help to the migrants, OFWs and their families since this will help in the installation of the data base as well as implement programs and services for the OFWs and Migrants.” –Antique Provincial Government
- “With this project, we can be assured that online communications are maintained and made readily available for OFWs.” — Alexander A. Padilla, former PhilHealth President and CEO