As negotiators from the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) prepare for the second round of formal peace talks in Norway early next month, OFWs and their families today presented to both panels an agenda for a “Better Pinas” in a gathering at the University of the Philippines.
“Ultimately, a better Philippines for OFWs means an end to unemployment, contractualization and poverty that are the root causes of forced migration. A better Philippines for families of OFWs means that they will not have to be apart from their loved ones just to survive. A better Philippines is a self-sustaining Philippines, one that does not rely mainly on our cheap labor and remittances to keep the economy afloat,” said Garry Martinez, Chairperson of Migrante International.
According to Martinez, the migrants sector are eager to have a voice in the peace process especially that the next round of talks are geared towards drafting an agreement on socio-economic reforms.
The agenda for a “Better Pinas” was coursed through Usec. Edwin D. Bael of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on OFWs and Luis Jalandoni, peace panel chair of the NDFP.
In his talk on the plight of the migrants sector, Martinez challenged the present administration to depart from the labor export program (LEP) and other neoliberal policies which focus on increasing dependence on OFW remittances, foreign investments and debt-heavy infrastructure projects.
“The continuing LEP, which was introduced in the 1970’s under Marcos’ time, has showcased a more blatant and unapologetic policy that continues to exploit OFWs’ cheap labor. Effects of the ongoing Saudi crisis is testament to the bankruptcy of four decades of Philippine labor export. Since 2010, thousands upon thousands of OFWs in distress have been deported or forcibly repatriated back to the country due to civil unrests, calamities, economic instabilities and other similar factors in migrant-receiving countries. However, OFW deployment has picked up considerably over the past few years despite ongoing crisis in host countries and worsening abusive treament of migrant workers,” said Martinez.
The gathering was attended by around 300 participants. Present were OFWs and families affected by the Saud crisis, families of Mary Jane Veloso, and other migrant workers from various areas in Luzon and Metro Manila.
The event culminated to a symbolic action illustrating the “building blocks of a better Philippines.” ###