Migrante International today called on the Aquino government to divulge its plans for emergency assistance and employment options for thousands of overseas Filipino workers who are expected to arrive in the country in light of the ongoing repatriation of OFWs in Saudi Arabia, the mass deportation of OFWs from Japan and South Korea and the possible evacuation of OFWs in Egypt.
According to Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, the Aquino government should make public its plans for returned and returning OFWs after its failure to provide assistance to hundreds of OFWs from Saudi Arabia who were repatriated in the last month.
“They were obviously not prepared. Concerned government agencies were pointing fingers at each other for the OFWs’ immediate needs. No provisions for shelter, medical assistance and other emergency benefits were in place,” he said.
Martinez said that the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), one of the lead agencies expected to provide immediate assistance and emergency benefits to returned and returning OFWs initially directed all services to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). The DSWD, in turn, was obviously caught by surprise because “no funds were allotted for services for OFWs” and asked the OFWs to return to OWWA.
“If not for the assertion and collective action of returned OFWs from Saudi, the OWWA would not have been compelled to provide services and assistance that they should have been prepared to give in the first place. Pagdating dito ng mga OFW mula sa kawawang sitwasyon sa ibang bansa, pinagpapasa-pasahan at para pa silang namamalimos sa gobyerno,” he said.
Martinez said that the Aquino government, through the OWWA, should address returned and returning OFWs’ demands for (1) P10,000 emergency financial assistance for OFWs who were repatriated due to crisis situations; (2) decent shelter for OFWs upon arrival; (3) transportation allowances for their trip back to their provinces; and (4) medical assistance and other benefits for returned OFWs, especially those with children.
“These are benefits that the OFWs are entitled to, regardless of their status, because they were repatriated due to crisis situations,” Martinez said.
Mass deportations due to gov’t laxity
As for the mass deportation of OFWs from Japan and South Korea, Martinez said that other government agencies as the Philippine Overseas Employment Adminstration (POEA) and the Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking in Persons (IACAT) should be geared to act on numerous complaints against illegal recruiters and human traffickers who were responsible for the OFWs’ undocumented status in their host countries.
“The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should also seriously and urgently review bilateral labor agreements with the said countries instead of just easing requirements for OFWs who want to work abroad. Puro kita at pagpapabilis ng paglabas ng mga OFWs ang inaatupag, pagdating naman sa serbisyo at proteksyon napakakupad ng gobyerno,” he said.
What jobs are in store?
According to Martinez, aside from tactical and emergency assistance, the Aquino government should also divulge its plans for employment for thousands of returning OFWs. “Ultimately, the Aquino government should address widespread unemployment that is expected to grow due to the mass repatriation and deportation of OFWs.”
“Notwithstanding government inefficiency in the repatriation of distressed OFWs, the other reason why OFWs would rather stay behind despite clear and present danger is that alam nilang pagbalik nila rito ay hindi tiyak ang kabuhayan nila.”
Martinez cited previous cases of evacuation from conflict-ridden nations, most OFWs would opt to risk danger and death instead of job insecurity when they return to the Philippines. “This is the saddest reality for our OFWs, especially now in light of soaring prices of basic commodities and utilities,” he said.
He called on the Aquino administration to immediately address the employment and livelihood of all repatriated OFWs.
“Hindi sasapat ang ipinagmamalaking reintegration training package ng DOLE at OWWA. Ang kailangan ng ating mga kababayan ay trabahong may nakabubuhay na sahod at may katiyakan.”
Martinez announced that returned OFWs and families of stranded OFWs abroad will participate in the People’s SONA on July 22. ###