Global alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and families Migrante International today said that President Benigno Aquino III’s first year in office is arguably the worst year for OFWs.
“Since Aquino took his oath it has been especially more grueling for OFWs and their families. He specifically promised to give special attention to OFWs in his inaugural speech but what we have experienced is the complete opposite. Aquino’s first year may just be the worst year for OFWs and their families, and policy-wise, there are no indications that things will get better,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.
Martinez said that under the Aquino administration, OFWs have experienced unforgivable government neglect, the biggest budget cut for OFW services, more exorbitant state exactions and fee impositions, diplomatic blunders that have placed their welfare at stake and unending price hikes that continue to cripple OFWs and their families, among these:
– The failure to address the immediate evacuation and repatriation of OFWs affected by the conflicts in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East-North Africa region, and also those affected by calamities and disasters in Japan and New Zealand;
– Government neglect and insensitivity as highlighted by the case of abusive Hong Kong Labor Attache Romulo Salud, as well as the failure to hold accountable erring and negligent officials and ambassadors under the previous administration;
– The execution of three Filipinos in China, and the increase in the number of Filipinos in death row from 108 to 122;
– The unprecedented decrease in the budgets for the Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) and Assistance to Nationals (ATN) in the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) budget, while 7,000 Filipinos are languishing in jails abroad without legal assistance and at least 20,000 are stranded and awaiting repatriation;
– Inconsiderate blunders and diplomatic faux pas that threatened the well-being of OFWs in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China;
– More fee impositions and state exactions such as the mandatory Pag-Ibig contribution, e-Passport fee increase, mandatory insurance, affidavit of support, among others;
– The failure to investigate allegations of misuse and corruption of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) funds, and;
– The lack of a comprehensive and sustainable program for returned OFWs and their families.
“These are glaring examples of how insincere, insensitive and inept the Aquino government is in upholding and securing the protection and welfare of OFWs, while ironically also showcasing a more blatant and unapologetic labor export policy that exploits OFWs’ cheap labor and foreign remittances. Through these all, it has become more apparent that Aquino is no different from Arroyo, pareho lang sila negosyo sa halip na serbisyo, koleksyon sa halip na proteksyon para sa mga OFW.”
Martinez added, “Sadly, despite all these, OFWs are still forced to go abroad because the government has offered them nothing substantive and sustainable to address their families’ economic needs. Instead, what it has offered are mere dole-outs and band-aid solutions that do nothing to address widespread unemployment and landlessness, the root causes of forced migration.”
Martinez said that Migrante chapters around the world will hold simultaneous protest actions on the event of Aquino second State of the Nation Address (SONA) to present their own SUMA, State of Migrants Under Aquino. ###