How to Apply for Calamity Loan with SSS or PAG-IBIG

Last September 15, 2018, Northern Luzon were punished by Typhoon Ompong, the strongest typhoon to hit this year, thereby destroying houses, farmlands, public and private buildings and establishments, and even electric posts. While the typhoon lasted for only a day, it left thousands of displaced families and millions-worth of damages.

Unfortunately, Ompong is just one of the many typhoons that will visit the Philippines. While you and your family will be able to recover in time, which also means you need to work extra hard overseas, rehabilitation entails costs.

The good news is the government is willing to help through SSS or PAG-IBIG Calamity Loan. This loan facility is available to Filipinos who were affected by a calamity as declared by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and suffered loss and damages as a result of the calamity.

Here’s what you need to know between the two:

SSS Calamity Loan 

Features:

  • Loan Amount – One monthly salary credit (MSC) based on the average of the last 12 MSCs or total amount of damage, whichever is lower
  • Interest Rate – 10 percent per annum
  • Penalty Fee – One percent per month until fully paid
  • Loan Repayment – Payable within two years in 24 equal monthly installments
  • Waiver of one percent service fee
  • Must be availed within three months from the happening of the calamity

Who can apply? 

  • Has at least 36 months of contribution, six of which must be posted within the last 12 months prior to application of Calamity Loan
  • Resident of calamity-declared area and suffered losses or damages to the property
  • No outstanding loan with SSS (Loan Restructuring Program and  Calamity Loan Assistance Program)
  • Applicant must not have been granted any final benefit (retirement, death, total permanent disability) at the time of the application

How to Apply for SSS Calamity Loan (procedure is enumerated for OFWs only)

  • Fill out Calamity Loan Assistance application form. You can get a copy of the form here.
  • Personal appearance in the nearest SSS branch is required, but for OFWs, submit an Authorization Letter to certify that person transacting with SSS was authorized by you.
  • Submit scanned copies of IDs or documents that proves your status as OFW as well as original copies of IDs of your authorized representative.
  • Submit Barangay / City / NDRRMC / LDRRMC Certification that you were affected by the calamity. You can also get a copy here.

You can visit the nearest SSS branch, send email at member_relations@sss.gov.ph, or call SSS Call Center Hotline at 920-6446 to 55 for more details.

PAG-IBIG Calamity Loan

Features:

  • Loan Amount – Up to 80 percent of the Total Accumulated Value (TAV)
  • Interest Rate – 5.95 percent per annum
  • Repayment Period – Equal monthly installments payable for 24 months with grace period of three months. This means if you apply on January, you may start paying the loan on April or on the fourth month. Payment must be made every 15th of the month.

Who can apply?

  • Must made at least 24 months contribution with at least one monthly contribution in the last six months prior to the date of application. In case you haven’t made at least 24 months contribution, then you must show proof that your total savings is equivalent to 24 months of contribution.
  • A resident of the area that was declared as calamity-stricken
  • In case there is an existing PAG-IBIG Housing Loan, MPL, or calamity loan, existing loan must NOT be in default
  • Has sufficient proof of income

How to Apply 

  • Submit duly-accomplished application form in any PAG-IBIG branches near you. You can get a copy of the application form here.
  • Submit supporting document such as Proof of Income and photocopy of two government-issued IDs
  • Accomplish and submit Declaration of Being Affected by Calamity. You can try using this form.
  • For OFWs, your family member might be required to submit a Special Power of Attorney to transact on your behalf. You can use this SPA form.

Keep in mind that these facilities can only be applied for within three months from the happening of the calamity. In case you were affected, the calamity loans could be helpful in getting your family back on their feet.

OFW Guide to Living and Working in Bahrain

Fact: Filipinos can work anywhere in the problem. Apparently, if you go to the usual country destinations like Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, and UAE, then you might find yourself fighting for a spot to seek greener pastures. Competition is high because these usual spots are the most common countries aspiring OFWs will apply to. If you want to boost your chances of working overseas, then you should consider going to the “less popular” ones.

In that case, say hello to Bahrain.

There are many job opportunities available for Filipinos. You can find jobs in the medical and health industry (nurse, caregivers), construction, and even in corporate world (administrative jobs, sales and marketing). More importantly, Bahrain is an open economy and foreign workers get to enjoy lower taxes. This could be the reason why you will find 60,000 Filipinos and seldom hear news about OFWs being maltreated.

Interested? Here’s what you need to know about Bahrain first before you apply:

General Facts

The Kingdom of Bahrain, which name means “two seas,” is one of the six nations that constitute the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It is ruled by a Sunni king, whose family holds various positions in the government and military. It is also considered as constitutional monarchy with elected legislative assembly.

Bahrain is among the first countries to discover oil and build a refinery in the peninsula. Unfortunately, the country was not able to enjoy the levels of production enjoyed by Saudi Arabia or Kuwait.

Manama is Bahrain’s capital, its major language is Arabic (although some know and understand English), and their currency is Bahraini Dinar (1 BHD = 143.34 PHP).

Work Permit 

This is important. Even if your employer already arranged your work permit, you still need to complete this step.

As soon as you land in the Bahrain International Airport, make sure you head straight to the Labor Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA), an e-Government portal that issues your ID and residence permit. These documents are needed to ensure that you work in Bahrain legally.

To get your permit, make sure you submit documents like passport, visa, health exam results (this includes getting AIDS/HIV testing, ID photo, fingerprints, and signature.

Daily Living

Bahrain is majority Islam country, although they tolerate the practice of other religions. Still, there are certain prohibitions you need to follow. This includes:

  • No smoking and drinking of alcohol in public places
  • Dress appropriately, especially for the ladies.
  • Public display of affection is a big no-no.
  • Accept all refreshments, otherwise you are deemed rude.
  • For the ladies, never ever shake hands with men, even if you are being introduced.

Despite the rules, there’s so much to see and do in Bahrain. Theme parks, cinemas, museums, pubs, and historical sites that you can visit during your off days.

Cost of Living 

You will get paid with a good amount but the standard of living in Bahrain is high. Some companies offer free accommodation but in case yours did not, consider sharing with fellow foreign workers to reduce rental expense.

It is also recommended to ride public transport (by that, we mean bus) since it is more affordable.

The good news is you don’t get to pay taxes, including personal income, value-added tax, and withholding tax. Nonetheless, be ready to shell out one percent of your income for social security or 10 percent municipal tax for the monthly rent. Other than that, you can get bigger income every month.

Are you willing to give Bahrain a try?

How to Start and Apply for Your Franchise Business

In a previous post, we shared food franchise businesses you can try to jumpstart your entrepreneurial dreams. This is a good idea especially if it is your first time in the business world. You want to gain experience first in running a business with minimal risk because you simply have to follow a time-and-tested business model. At this point, you already did your research and decided to go for this particular franchise.

What’s next?

You start your franchise business application. Although the process depends per franchisor, here are major steps you need to do to make this happen:

Step 1: Reach Out to Your Chosen Franchisor

This is exactly what you need to do to get into franchising. Keep in mind that each franchisor require different sets of documents, charge certain fees, and follow a particular arrangement. Even if some details are listed on their website, there are other information that are not disclosed (especially the fees) and talking to your target franchisor directly will keep you informed.

Give them a call or send them an email regarding your intention to franchise. Set up a meeting for further concerns. You can also attend Franchise Expo where you can talk to company representatives directly. The expo usually happens during the first half of the year so if you are in the country, do check out their schedules as well.

Just make sure your chosen franchise is a legitimate business. You may check the list of companies that are open for franchising here.

Step 2: Prepare the Requirements 

This is an important step. The requirements you will be asked to submit could dictate whether or not the franchisor will approve your franchise application, so you need to wow them at this stage.

Franchisors have their own set of requirements. Nonetheless, below are the most commonly-requested documents:

  • Completed franchise application form, which is commonly found in the company’s website
  • Letter of Intent or LOI, which states your reasons for applying for a franchise. There are also franchisors whose LOI sample is available in their website, so do check it out.
  • Vicinity map of your proposed site, with the help of Google Maps. It is best to attach pictures of the actual site as well.
  • Resume of the franchise applicant
  • At least two valid government-issued IDs.

Aside from these documents, some franchisors will ask you to submit any of the following:

  • Lease Contract or Written Agreement with the Lessor, if you will be renting a space for the site
  • Latest bank statements (to check the availability of funds as business capital)
  • Proof of billing under your name
  • Business registration documents like Mayor’s Permit and DTI Certificate (if sole proprietor)
  • Taxpayer’s Identification Number

Step 3: Meet the Franchisor

This is another crucial step. Meeting with the franchisor is where they will assess your franchise application and inform you if it is a go. Franchisors need to assess whether you are a good fit to be their business partner, which is why you need to impress them as well.

Here are some of the things that happen during this stage:

  • Discussion of the franchise details, including the qualifications needed as a franchisee
  • Inspection of the proposed site
  • Next steps you need to undergo such as trainings

Step 4: Signing of the Franchise Agreement

Finally, you passed and you are on your way towards becoming a franchisee. Don’t get too excited yet. You need to review the Franchise Agreement first before you sign the document. Consequently, you need to pay attention to the following details:

  • Franchise term, including renewal term and costs
  • Fees and costs such as franchise fee, bond, and royalty fee among others
  • Inclusions in the franchise package
  • Grounds for termination of the Franchise Agreement
  • Franchisor-approved suppliers and products

“I don’t have sufficient funds to even get a franchise. What’s my next option?”

Well, Balikbayad is here to help. Fill out our online application form for pre-processing and we will get back to you as soon as we can regarding the status of your loan application. We can lend as much as P500,000 and allow us to be your partner in making this entrepreneurial dream happen.

OFW Guide to Living and Working in Italy

Admit it. You dreamed of going to Italy the moment you saw the movie Milan starring Piolo Pascual and Claudine Barretto. After all, who wouldn’t fall in love with the beautiful sceneries and tourist spots featured in the movie?

More than the tourist spots, Italy is also a home to thousands of Filipinos. In fact, Italy has the biggest concentration of Filipinos in Europe (more than 150,000 documented Filipinos) – and it’s not surprising why.

For starters, Italy pays well, including household service workers. Starting salary is 800 Euros and could go as much as 2,000 Euros (or even more). Also, Italy has strict labor laws, which explains why cases of maltreatment are unheard of (although for sure, there are cases but are minimal). Believe it or not, foreign workers may file a labor case against their employers in case they are not compliant with their labor laws. You get paid leaves as well, thereby allowing you to go around and explore the country.

Does this get you excited? Before you rush to Italy to work, here are some of the things you need to know about this country:

General Facts 

Italy is located in the heart of Mediterranean, southern part of Europe, and surrounded by France,, Austria, Switzerland, and Slovenia among others. It is a country with rich culture and heritage that dates back to the Roman Empire. Rome is the capital of Italy and Euro is the currency used in this country. Its form of government is unitary parliamentary republic and the monarch was abolished via constitutional referendum.

Language

When it comes to language, Italians speak their own language and are proud of it. English may not be as widely spoken in major parts of the country, except when you will work in large cities like Rome and Milan. Depending on your location, there are areas that speak German, French, and Slovenian.

Work Opportunities 

Household service workers and farm workers are the most common jobs available for Filipinos in Italy. Nonetheless, nurses are also in demand, as well as caregivers, chefs, computer programmers, and hotel staff.

Similar to other countries overseas, you will need a valid working visa to obtain “permesso de soggiorno” or permit to stay in Italy. Working visa and permit are needed because despite the the leniency for foreign workers, Italy does not condone illegal workers.

Working Conditions

Before you start working, make sure you obtain your own social security number and health insurance, which you can get from the National Social Security Institute. Your employer must automatically register you.

Religion

This is another reason why Italy is a favorite. Italy is majority s Catholic country, thereby making it easier for Filipinos to practice their faith.

Nonetheless, you might be surprised with how Italians celebrate Christmas. Unlike in the Philippines, Italians fast 24 hours before Christmas Eve by not eating meat. If you work in the southern part of Italy, you get to experience the “Feast of Seven Fishes.”

When it comes to opening of gifts, adults open theirs either at midnight after Christmas Eve dinner or after attending the Midnight Mass. Children open theirs on Christmas morning.

Transportation 

In case you want to explore Italy, make sure you travel by train. The trains will connect you from one place to another, thereby making everything accessible.

Traffic may be chaotic in Italy, so if you can, walk from one place to another. Noise and air pollution is also an issue, and as of the moment, the Italian government is doing its best to address this.

Weather 

No, it is not always hot and sunny in Italy. In fact, Italy’s climate is diverse. If you are staying in the North, you will experience mild summer and cold winter because of the Alps. Eastern Italy, which is surrounded by the Po River, has hot and humid summer, and cold, wet winter. If you are staying in the Central and South Italy, then expect a Mediterranean climate, which is hot, dry summer and mild winter.

Who wants to give Italy a try for your next job overseas?

Food Franchise Business You Can Start Now (and within Budget)

You’ve been working hard overseas. What do you plan to do with your hard-earned money?

Paying existing financial obligations, investing, or buying your dream house are some of the things you can do with your money. Have you considered putting up your own business?

Starting with your business can be challenging, especially if you don’t have entrepreneurial experience. There are certain technicalities you need to know especially if you want to succeed. The good news is there are business models that are proven effective over the years, which companies are willing to share to people – also known as franchising. This can be a good way to jumpstart your entrepreneurial career and eventually, learn from it. Plus, everybody loves to eat, so you can never go wrong with food with strong brand recall already.

The challenge now is choosing what food business to franchise. Don’t worry. We made it easier for you to decide by compiling a list of food franchises you can try, starting from the most affordable to expensive ones:

Burger Matsing 

  • Initial investment – starts at P50,000
  • Package inclusions – Franchise fee, franchisee and crew training, business operations, promotional, and marketing support, and online ordering system
  • Contact information – info@burgermatsing.com / 0945-3456957 / 0939-8775810 / 0943-8700283

Star Frappe’

  • Initial investment – starts at P99,000
  • Contract term – one year, but renewable without fee
  • Package inclusions – Use of trade name, food cart and equipment, P3,000 worth of initial products, franchisee and crew training, crew uniform, and after-sales support.
  • Contact information franchiseinquiry101@gmail.com

Boy Kanin

  • Initial investment – starts at P149,000 (kiosk) to P299,000 (big in-line store or food cart)
  • Contract term – three years
  • Package inclusions – Franchise fee, use of trademark, cart and equipment, initial stocks, training of crew and franchisee, crew uniform, and opening assistance. For big in-line stores and food card, construction cost, marketing materials, and equipment are included.
  • Contact information – franchising.boykanin@gmail.com / 352-8130 / 0917-3443472 / 0923-6831409

Hong Kong Style Fried Noodles and Dimsum 

  • Initial investment – P150,000
  • Package inclusions – Food cart, utensils, equipment, small wares, initial product, crew training, pre-opening and opening assistance, crew uniform, and marketing materials
  • Contact Information – 43-0536 / 0917-5000772 / 0922-8307611

Siomai King 

  • Initial investment – P168,888
  • Package inclusions – Use of trade name, logo, and business system, lighted company signage, stainless cart with cabinet, marketing collaterals, equipment and operating utensils, personnel training, and opening assistance.
  • Contact information – info@jcfranchisinginc.com / 889-4773 to 76 / 0918-8JCFRAN (523786)

Noodle House / Sgt. Sisig 

  • Initial investment – P168,888
  • Package inclusions – Use of trade name, logo, and business system, heavy duty equipment and utensils, six staff uniform, marketing collaterals, personnel training and on-site crew training, opening assistance, and assistance of monitoring officer.
  • Contact information – info@jcfranchisinginc.com / 889-4773 to 76 / 0918-8JCFRAN (523786)

Tapsi Stop 

  • Initial investment – P168,888
  • Package inclusions – Use of trade name, logo, and business system, customized stainless cart with lighted signage, equipment (stainless griddle with iron plate, non-stick frying pan, electric stove, rice cooker, working table, and juice dispenser), operating utensils, marketing collaterals, four working uniforms, and comprehensive personnel training.
  • Contact information – info@jcfranchisinginc.com / 889-4773 to 76 / 0918-8JCFRAN (523786)

Potato Corner 

  • Initial investment – starts at P200,000 (school cart) to P800,000 (in-line store with seats)
  • Package inclusions – Franchise fee, cart or kiosk, small ware and equipment, initial supplies, and crew training.
  • Contract information – Email at iwantfranchise@potatocorner.com / 534-5845 / 534-5846or check this link for more details.

Mister Donut

  • Initial investment – starts at P200,000 (food cart) to P650,000 (dine-in shop) plus P50,000 franchise fee
  • Contract term – two years and renewable for another two years for P50,000
  • Package inclusions – Food cart, equipment, POS tablet, small wares, and crew uniform
  • Contact information – Email at fms@misterdonut.ph / 370-1236 / 0917-8896148

Siomai House 

  • Initial investment – P250,000
  • Contract term – three years
  • Package inclusions – Food cart, equipment, and delivery
  • Contact information – Email at siomaihouse@yahoo.com.ph

Waffle Time 

  • Initial investment – P250,000
  • Contract term – Three years and renewable for another three years
  • Package inclusions – Franchise fee, equipment, food cart, training, and crew uniform
  • Contact information – Email at customerservice@waffletime.com / 584-1601 / 584-3704 / 0933-8513968

Fiorgelato 

  • Initial investment – starts at P275,000 (kiosk) or P750,000 (counter)
  • Contract term – five years
  • Package inclusions – Franchise fee for five years, equipment, food cart or kiosk, small wares, initial stocks, and crew uniform
  • Contact information – kiosk1263@yahoo.com / milkin_mktg@yahoo.com / milkinmktg@gmail.com / 524-0384 / 524-0385

Citrus Zone 

  • Initial investment – starts at P280,000
  • Package inclusions – Use of trademark, crew training, and initial inventory.
  • Contract information – Email at partners@citruszonerefreshment.com / 0998-5589640

Which one do you like?

In case you need additional funds to start your business, Balikbayad is here to help. Fill out our online application for pre-approval and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

OFW Guide to Living and Working in Malaysia

Where do you plan to work if you are thinking of working overseas? You will find tons of job opportunities in the Middle East, but Asia is still among the favorite job destinations. By Asia, we’re not just talking about Singapore and Hong Kong where you can find a lot of Filipinos. At this point, you might want to consider Malaysia.

You can find job opportunities in Malaysia, although priority is still given to Malaysians. Still, IT-related and healthcare jobs are in demand, but you can also find work opportunities in hotel service and administrative work. Multinational companies find home in Malaysia where they will need talents like you.

If you plan to work in this country, here are some things you need to know about it:

General Facts

Located two to three hours from Manila, Malaysia is among the countries in Southeast Asia and being surrounded by Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, and Philippines. Its capital city is Kuala Lumpur, Malay or Bahasa Malaysia is its official language, but English is widely spoken as well especially in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Its currency is Malaysian Ringgit (1 MYR = 12.94 PHP as of this writing).

Religion 

Malaysia’s official religion is Islam. Nonetheless, Malays are welcoming of other religious denominations such as Catholics, Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism among others.

All major religious festivals of every religious group are considered as a holiday.

Culture

Malaysia is ethnically diverse, so don’t be surprised if you see yourself talking to other Asians. It would be challenging though in the workplace because of the difference in culture. Still, this would be fun since you’ll get a glimpse of the way of life in other countries. Since this country is ethnically diverse, you will hear other languages too aside from English.

When you work in Malaysia, you will notice that most people will say “No” to you. Malaysian culture perceive the act of saying “No” as shaming the other person, so try to read between the lines. The lack of outright positive feedback would also mean “No,” so make sure you follow up your question.

Since Malaysia is a Muslim country, it is imperative that you observe proper attire. Conservative dressing is recommended, especially for women. Nonetheless, Western-style clothing such as wearing suits is normal.

Food 

Malaysia is a food haven. You can find different cuisines that could range from traditional Malay food to Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, and even Indian. Western food outlets can be found in Malaysia, but if you really want to enjoy what this country offers, then you have to eat where locals eat.

Transportation 

Unlike other countries such as Japan or Singapore, Malaysia doesn’t have an elaborate transport system. Kuala Lumpur has a light rail line that could bring you from point A to point B, but it needs to be expanded. Riding the cab is more convenient and most cabs charge lower rate.

Employment Pass

Working overseas means you need to secure necessary permit for you to be allowed to work. This is the same with Malaysia.

If you plan to work in this country, then you need to secure an Employment Pass with the help of your Malaysian employer. This employment pass allows you to work for 60 months or throughout the duration of the contract. Take note that this Employment Pass is valid per employer. If you wish to look for another employer, then you need to apply for another employment pass.

If you will render a physical labor job, then make sure you secure Foreign Worker Visa. This type of visa is granted to those who will work in the fields of manufacturing, agriculture, construction, plantation, and services.

Are you ready to go?

Types of Business Loans that Best Suits Your Business

What do you plan to do when you get home from the Philippines? Most OFWs will look for a new job overseas to be able to finance and sustain a good life for their family. If you are wiser with the way you handle money and finances back home, then applying for a new job abroad every two years won’t be necessary. In fact, you might be having your own business after three to five trips overseas.

We know that putting up your own business is not as easy as it seems. You need to ensure that your business idea is sustainable to make sure that it will go on for years. Then there’s the financial side. Even if you have the brightest idea that will surely change the Filipino way of life, you need to have money or capital to make this idea happen.

This is where business loan comes in. It gives you additional working capital to make your business dreams happen. Apparently, business loans come in different types as well, each of them catering to specific needs.

Here’s what you need to know about the different kinds of this type of facility:

Secured Business Loan 

From the name itself, you can easily tell that this type of business loan requires collateral. In case of default, lender may use the collateral to pay for your existing loan obligation.

Don’t worry. The good thing about this type of loan is that you can enjoy higher loan amount, lower interest rate, and longer loan terms since your loan is secured by a collateral and risk is reduced. This is why going for a secured business loan is ideal, especially for those who are still starting with their business.

Loan amount varies per lender. Maximum amount you can borrow will also depend on the security you will offer. Lenders impose a limit and percentage for maximum loan amount based on your collateral. For instance, if you offer real property, you can only borrow up to 60 percent of the property’s appraised value.

What type of collateral, you might ask. Anything that is under your name. Real estate property is the most common type of collateral used, although you have to pay for appraisal fee and make sure that your real estate tax payment is updated. Aside from this, you can also use your car (chattel mortgage) or time deposit (Deed of Assignment) when you apply for a secured business loan.

Term Loan 

In case you wanted more manageable payment terms, then this type of business loan is ideal for you.

Term loan offers short- or long-term business funding while keeping your own funds intact. You can avail of this facility if you want to get into franchising, expand your existing business, purchase of new equipment, or even purchase, construction, or renovation of business space. You can get minimum of P50,000 and maximum of P20 million, payable within one (short-term loan) to 15 (long-term loan) years.

In terms of payment, this would vary per lender. Term loans are typically paid monthly, which includes both principal and interest (rate is either fixed or based on prevailing market rate), but some would allow quarterly, semi-annual, or annual payment.

READ: What You Need to Know about OWWA Loan 

Credit Line

There are instances when you don’t really need a big amount, but you just want money available at your disposal. In that case, credit line is your best option for your business loan.

Credit line is a type of facility that offers short-term loan and quick access to money whenever you need, which is usually good for one year. You can use this for purchase of additional supplies or inventory, contract financing, additional working capital, or accounts receivable among others. Minimum loan amount is P100,000 to P20 million, but the amount varies depending on the nature of the loan. You can pay the loan every month, but if you have additional funds, paying off the loan can be made.

Don’t worry because you will only pay interest based on the amount you used. For instance, the lender approved P1 million credit line on January. Come February, you only need P300,000 because you fell short in your payroll and promised to pay it after a month. You will only be charged interest on P300,000 and you also have the option to repay the loan without consuming the entire one month.

Unsecured Business Loan 

Let’s say you badly need additional funds, but you don’t have collateral to offer. That’s fine. There are lenders who offer unsecured business loan, which means collateral is not mandatory for the approval of your loan.

Although this sounds ideal for you, unsecured loans typically have lower loan amount, higher interest rate, and shorter loan terms to reduce risk of non-payment of loan. Applying with a co-maker who is in good financial standing and providing sufficient amount of income are recommended when you plan to go for this facility.

Banks don’t normally offer this type of loan because of the risk involved, but private lenders like Balikbayad offers unsecured loan to help starting entrepreneurs like you to start your own business.

In case you’re interested, make sure to fill out our online loan application for pre-approval and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

OFW Guide to Living and Working in Taiwan

Middle East countries will always have the highest demand for overseas workers. If you prefer something nearer to the Philippines, Hong Kong and Singapore are the top choices because of its proximity.

Did you know that Taiwan is also a favorite of many OFWs? This is because there are a lot of job opportunities available in this tiny country that is only two hours away from Manila. This country is export-driven with its home-grown brands such as Asus, Acer, and Trend Micro already having a global status. Because of this, the country is in need of factory and skilled workers in manufacturing their global brands.

In case you plan to work in Taiwan, make sure to read this post to prepare you for a new life there:

Labor Law and Policies

All workers, except for Household Service Workers (HSWs), are covered by Taiwan’s Labor Standards Law.

Despite the exemption, it is illegal for all employers to keep your passport and Alien Residency Certificate (ARC) without your consent. To get your ARC, you must submit the following at the local police station as soon as possible:

  • Letter of Authorization from the Council of Labor Affairs
  • Medical certificate with Letter of Authorization from local health authorities

Weather

Unlike in the Philippines, Taiwan experiences the four seasons – winter (although there is no snow but just a chilly wind), spring, summer, and fall. A maximum of four typhoons visit Taiwan every year, but these typhoons often bring floods in the country. Taiwan is also prone to earthquakes, so make sure you are prepared.

Culture and Way of Life 

Taiwan is still dominated with their own kind, but you will see lots of people of different races.

Mandarin Chinese is the official language in Taiwan, but Hokkien is still widely used. Nonetheless, Taiwanese understand simple English words, so conversing with them won’t be too much of a problem.

Finding 7/11 stores won’t be a problem as well. Taiwan holds the highest density of 7/11 stores per person.

If you are looking for something to do after a long day, karaoke is popular in this country. If time permits, make sure to go around and explore the place because you will find a lot of scenic spots like Shilin Night Market and visit museums and memorial halls.

Also, never point using your finger. This is considered as disrespectful for them. Instead, point with an open hand.

Buses and trains are also the main forms of transportation. This is ideal because it is cheaper compared to riding a cab.

Religion

Buddhism is the primary religion in Taiwan. Aside from this, Christianity, Taoism, Protestantism, and other religions are practiced and accepted. You will also find Catholic churches in Taiwan, so fulfilling your Sunday obligation won’t be an issue.

Food

You will surely love this. Taiwan is among the best food destinations in the world and you will find tons dishes to fill your hungry tummy. Taipei is also a home to variety of streets dedicated for food where you will find streetside bao in variety of flavors, beef noodle soup, bubble tea, and lurou fan (braised pork rice) among others.

Surely, you’ll never go hungry.

Despite the beauty of Taiwan, keep in mind that it only allows foreign workers to work in their country for a maximum of 12 years. Make the most out of your stay, enjoy, and make sure to save up.

Facts about the PAG-IBIG Fund Law of 2009 – for Overseas Filipino Workers

PAG-IBIG. This government agency stands for Pagtutulungan sa Kinabukasan: Ikaw, Bangko, Industriya, at Gobyerno. The main purpose of the agency is to provide affordable housing scheme through effective savings policy.

In August 27, 2009, the Home Development Mutual Fund Law or PAG-IBIG Fund Law (RA 9679) was passed and became effective thereafter, which aims to strengthen the agency’s ability to provide affordable housing schemes among others. The question now is how does this law affect OFWs?

Here are facts you need to know about the PAG-IBIG Fund Law of 2009:

Universal Coverage

RA 9679 has universal coverage, which means this covers all documented OFWs, both land-based and seafarers, which also aims to provide affordable housing opportunities to them. This means aside from the OWWA membership, all OFWs should also register with PAG-IBIG prior to date of departure. You will be given a Registration Tracking Number or RTN, which you will use when transacting with PAG-IBIG. Therefter, MID number will be given to you.

In case you weren’t able to register yet and you are abroad, there are PAG-IBIG posts located outside the Philippines located at the country’s respective embassies. You can check the locations here.

Monthly Contribution

You can increase your voluntary contribution every month to yield bigger savings. Unlike before when you were limited to P100 per month, you can increase your monthly contribution as long as it does not exceed the cap prescribed by the PAG-IBIG Board of Trustees.

How much will you contribute? Two percent of your monthly income. Keep in mind that the higher the contribution, the higher the dividends will be. The best part is what you’ll get after 20 years is tax-free as well.

Unlike Filipino employers, foreign employers are not expected to give contributions to PAG-IBIG, unless they voluntarily do so.

Modified PAG-IBIG II Program

If you want to get higher dividends within a short period, then this program is recommended. Minimum monthly contribution is P500 and maximum amount is P5,000.

Dividend rate is higher compared to the ordinary contribution scheme, but the return of your money is higher as well.

Previous Contributions Made

Prior to the passage of RA 9679, OFWs were under the PAG-IBIG Overseas Program or POP and contributions were regularly made.

Don’t worry. Your previous contributions under POP will be carried over and remain under your name. Even if you changed employers, the money you saved will stay with you.

Keep in mind that POP contributions and contributions made under the new scheme will not be merged. The total accumulated value for both facilities will remain separate and there is a possibility that you can get your POP contributions earlier even if you haven’t reached the 20 years yet under the new scheme.

If you want to discontinue with the POP and transfer to PAG-IBIG I scheme instead, then you may do so as long as you do not have existing loans with the agency.

Payment of Contribution 

Initially, you can do it in the Philippines during your registration. To ensure that you will be able to save no matter what happens, you can pay for your monthly contributions in the Philippine Embassy or Consulate in the country where you are assigned. The embassy allotted a desk specifically for PAG-IBIG wherein the person in-charge is authorized to transact.

Claiming of Contribution 

You can get your Total Accumulated Value (TAV) after 20 years and after making 240 monthly contributions. 

Nonetheless, there are exceptions to this rule. This includes:

  • 15 years optional withdrawal provided 180 straight monthly contributions were made and you don’t have existing loan with PAG-IBIG.
  • Claimant is 60 years of age.
  • Mandatory retirement at 65.
  • Transferring to another country permanently
  • Total insanity or disability
  • Loss of employment due to serious medical condition
  • Death

You will receive the entire amount of your monthly contributions made plus contributions made by your employer (if any), and the dividends earned.

In case of Death 

The total accumulated value will be given to your registered dependents. Nonetheless, PAG-IBIG will deduct a portion of this savings in case you have existing obligations with the agency. Aside from the money you contributed, PAG-IBIG will also provide death benefits for your family.

The amount may not seem a lot, but this could be a great help for you to start over in case you want to settle in the Philippines and retire for good.

PERA for Retirement: Yay or Nay? + Other Retirement Options for OFWs

Do you have a retirement fund? If yes, then good for you. There’s no such thing as “too early for retirement,” especially when you want to live comfortably when you get older.

READ: 6 Tips to Help You Save for Retirement

Let’s say you still don’t have a retirement fund. That’s okay. It’s not yet too late as long as you start saving up for it now. Opening a specific account, which will serve as your retirement fund is fine. The problem with this is that you don’t get too earn more in terms of interest and at the same time, withdrawing money is tempting.

What is another option? Consider PERA or Personal Equity and Retirement Account.

READ: What You Need to Know about PERA

In a nutshell, PERA is the government’s way of encouraging Filipinos to save money for retirement. To make your money grow, your PERA contribution, which is currently offered by BDO and BPI only, will be invested in various channels like mutual funds, UITF, government securities, shares of stocks, insurance pension products, and other investment products.

The good thing about PERA is that you can only withdraw your contributions, which is tax-exempt, once you reach the age of 55 years old and has contributed for at least five years. 

Think of it as an additional retirement fund that supplements your retirement package from SSS/GSIS or the company you worked for.

The next question is this: should you apply for a PERA account for additional retirement savings option? 

The biggest selling point of PERA is the tax benefits. Compared to the products offered by banks, PERA has the following tax advantages:

  • Income tax credit, wherein you get to enjoy five percent tax credit out of your total contribution. For instance, your total PERA contribution is P100,000. You will only declare P95,000 in in your income tax because you earned P5,000 tax credit.
  • Investment income is tax-free, which means you are exempted from paying capital gains tax, final withholding tax, and regular income tax.
  • Estate tax exemption, which means in case of death, the PERA contribution will be released to the heirs or legal beneficiaries, sans payment of estate tax and going through the lengthy probate process.

Aside from the tax benefits, you can also choose where you want to invest your money. There are many PERA investment products you can choose from depending on your risk profile, so go for a product that allows you to earn more.

Is it good enough for your retirement fund? The answer is yes. The tax incentives alone is a good reason to consider investing your money in PERA account. Just make sure you won’t withdraw the money before you turn 55 so you will get to enjoy tax benefits.

In case you’re still not convinced with PERA, below are some of your Retirement Fund alternatives:

  • Savings Account – The good thing about having a separate account for retirement is that your cash is readily available. Unfortunately, withdrawing money is more tempting, plus you don’t get to earn more from interest every month.
  • Investment Products – This includes mutual funds, time deposit, bonds, or stocks among others. Investment products yield higher return of investment compared to savings. Check out this post to know more about your options and according to what is more suitable to your lifestyle.
  • Real Properties – It’s not enough that you have a house. Real properties are also an acceptable alternative for your retirement fund because you can earn from it by renting it out. This could be costly to buy compared to the other alternatives, but the money you earn from rent could help you a lot as you get older.

What path would you like to take to make your Retirement Fund happen?