June 7, 2018
Today, we commemorate the National Migrant Workers’ Day. Today, we give high commendation and honor to our Overseas Filipino Workers. However, today, we also demand justice for all OFWs and all Filipino people who are forced to leave their families and loved ones in order to seek for job opportunities abroad and in order to suffice the economic needs of their families because of insufficient employment, depressed wages, and severe working condition in our country.
We value this day as a result of the unified global protest of our OFWs and the Filipino people after the death of Flor Contemplacion, a persecuted domestic helper in Singapore. 23 years have passed since President Fidel V. Ramos signed into law the Republic Act No. 8042 otherwise known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995- AN ACT TO INSTITUTE THE POLICIES OF OVERSEAS EMPLOYMENT AND ESTABLISH A HIGHER STANDARD OF PROTECTION AND PROMOTION OF THE WELFARE OF THE MIGRANT WORKERS THEIR FAMILIES AND OVERSEAS FILIPINOS IN DISTRESS, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES, there is still no significant development in the situation of our OFWS. The government claims that the Labor Export Program will bring development to our nation, however this remains a myth and gets even worse under the administration of President Duterte.
No change has come
During the first month of President Duterte in office, his administration was welcomed with the issue of about 60,000 OFWs in Saudi Arabia who have been greatly affected and lost their jobs and benefits during the economic crisis in Saudi.
As a response to the clamor of OFWs, the Duterte administration sent a team in Saudi Arabia to address the situation of our fellow Filipinos. Out of 60,000 affected, the government only targeted to help 11,000 OFWs and only 9 companies. The budget used came from OWWA trust fund from the money of our OFWs and not even a centavo came from the pocket of our government. Not all have been given proper services by our government, only 20% have been aided. Thousands have been left unpaid and did not receive their benefits.
Instead of rescuing our OFWs from Saudi, the Philippine government encouraged them and even facilitated their transfer of work despite the looming economy and the shut-down of big companies.
Another also happened in Kuwait, a home to 270,000 OFWs who are mostly women working as domestic helpers. 10,800 were undocumented OFWs who wished to avail the amnesty program. Worst, many OFWs died in Kuwait including Joanna Demafelis. A lot have also been reported to be rape victims, physically abused, and more.
Despite the increasing crisis on the welfare of our OFWs, there was no deployment ban set by our government. Moreover, the Duterte Administration even set a talk with China and Russia being the alternative destination of our OFWs who came from Kuwait.
Worsening Economic Policies and Programs
As the year started, Filipino people have been attacked by the anti-poor and anti-people tax reform dubbed as the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law or TRAIN LAW. There have been an abrupt and incessant hike of prices of basic commodities and services while no stable jobs created in our country and wages of our workers remained to be meager.
Our OFWS is one of the sectors who gets direct impact especially in the increase of collection of basic documents that are required for their work abroad such as birth certificate which costs P155 per copy from P140 and CENOMAR which costs P210 from P195.
While it is noted that no increase in the documentary stamp tax on remittances, monitoring on remittance centers such as the Western Union automatically deducted 0.15% DST for every 200 USD transaction of the BSP.
The TRAIN Law of Duterte is meant to collect additional tax from the Filipino people as a source of debt payment under his Build, Build, Build Projects which will result to displacement of lives and livelihood, and destruction of our environment. In Cebu, it is masked under the MEGA Cebu project. It is expected that because of these projects, more and more Filipino will be forced to work abroad.
Moreover, this year, thousands graduated from the first batch of the K12 program of the government. As promised by the government to implement the reform in the education curriculum in order to at par with foreign nations, the K12 program only delivered graduates who will add to the long list of sources of cheap labor for foreign market.
The development always uttered by our government is nothing but absurd development only intended for the rich businessmen and families in the country. The policies and programs implemented are not meant for our national development rather, these will only result to forced migration of our people. Our OFWs and the rest of the Filipino people are always neglected. RA 8042 remains to be a decoration and a document but cannot really uphold its mandate to protect the rights and promote the welfare of our OFWs.
Genuine development does not need to provide labor force to be sent overseas. Genuine development means jobs created in the country for national development to be felt even in the grassroots level; and that means genuine agrarian reform for our farmers, the sector where majority of our OFWs are coming from, and national industrialization as the key for job employment in our own country.
Today, as we remember the National Migrant Workers’ Day, we shout in full conviction: “Serbisyo, hindi Negosyo! Proteksyon, hindi Koleksyon! Trabaho sa Pinas, hindi sa Labas! STOP the LABOR EXPORT PROGRAM!”
Ms. Connie Bragas-Regalado
Migrante Coordinator for Central Visayas and National Council Member, MIGRANTE Philippines
CP#0933 650 3487.