Almost Four Decades of Labor Export Program: Philippine government never learned its lessons. Trabaho sa Pinas, Hindi sa Labas! Ayuda Para sa OFWs at Pamilya, Ibigay Na!

16 August 2021

The recent news on the biggest repatriation so far of Filipinos overseas as a result of the pandemic is not a surprise but rather another evidence of the Philippine government’s failure to provide long-term and secure employment at home. Instead, the Philippine government continues to rely on the export of labor as part of its economic development strategy.

This is not the first time that a crisis of a global scale directly affected our migrant workers. The Gulf Wars in the Middle East and the global recessions in the 80’s are just some of the global events that resulted to massive loss of jobs and displacement for our OFWs. However, In the past, many are forced to be repatriated, others decided to stay and risk being undocumented rather than losing their chances of survival if they were to return home to the Philippines.

Now, an unprecedented number of OFWs are returning home and the urgent question is, what is the Duterte administration’s plan to address the mass displacement and unemployment among our OFWs?  His push to prioritize the formation of a new Department of Overseas Filipinos will definitely not resolve this massive crisis. This will only perpetuate the failed labor export program that has caused the grave neglect and abandonment of thousands and thousands of our distressed OFWs who are victims of labor exploitation, illegal recruitment, human trafficking, abuse and discrimination for four decades.

To make matters worse for our OFWs, thousands of distressed and displaced OFWs inside and outside the country have yet to receive financial assistance from the government. Their families in the Philippines were also barred from receiving the meager financial assistance released by the government from the DSWD’s Social Amelioration Program on the grounds that they are “better off.” Additionally, some OFWs and their beneficiaries did not receive benefits from the OWWA because they were not active members when they became sick, met an accident or died. This, despite the fact that they have been long-standing members before the pandemic, and only failed to renew their membership because of the pandemic. Some OFWs were not able to
access their insurance benefits, which were received by the agencies employing them.

To address the need for immediate cash relief, Migrante International along with other OFW and advocate organizations formed KAMTIN, a network to seek Ayuda or financial assistance for OFWs. KAMTIN demands for: (a) Php 10,000 for each OFW family inside and outside the Philippines. (b) USD 200 for each OFW who was retrenched from work and whose salary was reduced because of the pandemic — in addition to the DOLE-AKAP assistance. (c) Php 20,000 livelihood assistance for each OFW
repatriated because of the pandemic. (d) Php 30,000 for going home, quarantine, swab test and other health needs of each repatriated displaced OFW. (e) Creation of decent temporary shelters for OFWs outside the country who lost their job and accommodation because of the pandemic. But these demands have yet to come to seen if the government will listen to the plight of our economic heroes.

“The Duterte administration must learn its lessons in labor migration and should address these demands by using the appropriated budget intended for the well being of the Filipino people. Otherwise, we demand: Duterte, Wakasan Na!,” Migrante International concludes.##