#SONA2017: OFWs protest Duterte’s fascism and ‘broken vows’ in People’s SONA

On Pres. Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA), global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International led protests worldwide condemning the regime’s martial law and empty promises.

“Today’s protests are happening at a time when the nation is once again engulfed in a new dark era, that of the US-Duterte regime’s militarist authoritarian rule amid worsening social injustices. We are gathered here today with other sectors because OFWs and families stand against Duterte’s martial law and all-out war against the people. We lend our voices against the government’s political suppression and repression of its critics and perceived enemies. We vow to fight any and all forms of curtailment of our hard-fought freedoms and civil liberties,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante International spokesperson.

Hernando said that martial law in Mindanao has resulted in countless deaths, destruction and numerous human rights abuses brought on by the military’s indiscriminate bombings and air strikes.  It has also been used by state forces to carry out harassment, extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and the filing of trumped-up charges against activists, progressives and civil libertarians, not only in Mindanao but in Visayas and Luzon.

“The extension of martial law in Mindanao represents a clear and present threat of an expansion of military rule not only in Mindanao but a military takeover of the government. Such a move has paved the way for a possible declaration of martial law nationwide,” he said.

“History has proven that martial law cannot and will not pave the way to peace and stability. Instead, most vulnerable to human rights and violations are the Filipino people — unionists who strike for better wages, farmers and national minorities who struggle for land, the poor who fight for better services and against state repression. The extension of martial law in Mindanao has set the stage for the large-scale violation of human rights by the AFP and other state forces.”

Hernando said that today’s SONA protests around the world is also testament to overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs’) continuing clamor for genuine change.

Joining the Migrante contingent in the People’s SONA in Manila are returned OFWs and families of stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia; the family of Mary Jane Veloso; and, the family of Teresa Quedding, an OFW victim of mysterious death whose remains arrived from Kuwait without internal organs and with apparent signs of torture and maltreatment.

Migrante also raised OFWs’ strong opposition to fees and tax impositions brought on by the new OFW ID, or the iDOLE, and the Bureau of Customs’ Memorandum Order 04-2017 on balikbayan boxes which will be effective on August 1.

“After a year of Duterte’s presidency, it has become evident that no genuine change awaits OFWs and their families. Duterte vowed to end forced migration and the policy of labor export but continues to cater only to the ruling elite, big business and foreign interests. Joblessness, contractualization, landlessness, lack of basic social services and other social injustices are not being addressed. These are the root causes of forced migration, the reasons why millions of our OFWs are compelled to leave their families just to survive. These are also the root causes of the ongoing armed conflict, that only fundamental societal change can resolve,” Hernando said.

Like in the Marcos era, he said, Duterte’s martial law and all-out war against the people will only further force Filipinos to seek security and refuge abroad.

“History has also proven that martial law failed to address the root causes of the CPP-NPA-NDF armed rebellion as well as the Moro people’s struggle for the right to self-determination. Martial law extension in Mindanao, and its possible expansion nationwide, is a momentous stumbling block to the Filipino people’s aspiration and commitment to a just and lasting peace,” Hernando said.

Migrante also condemned the apparent US-hand not only in the Marawi conflict but in moves to extend martial law in Mindanao and expand it nationwide.

“Filipinos here and abroad resist and reject the US’ involvement in the Marawi conflict and in Philippine affairs. Our nation should not fall prey to the US ploy of wreaking terror and division to advance their economic and political interests in the country and in the region, similar to what they are waging in Syria, Venezuela and other countries where people are asserting their independence,” Hernando said.

“Nothing good ever comes out of US interventionist wars. The Filipino people will not allow Pres. Duterte to fall into the same trap that happened in Syria, Libya and elsewhere. In line with the US pivot to Asia, the US-hand in the Marawi conflict and the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, enabled by US puppets in the Duterte government, has already been exposed. Migrante International calls for the lifting of martial law and the immediate pull out of US troops from Philippine soil.”

“We call on all Filipinos around the world to rise against state fascism. Only through collective action and struggle can the Filipino people ultimately topple the rotten, corrupt system that has produced one tyrant leader after another,” Hernando said. ###

BoC is taking the joy out of the balikbayan box – Migrante

Migrante International today slammed the Bureau of Customs’ (BoC) latest order Customs Memorandum Order 04-2017 saying that it is an insult, an added chore and a killjoy to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families.

The group said that CMO 04-2017 also reeks of another money-making scheme aimed to justify tax impositions and other fund-generating requirements from OFWs and families.

CMO 04-2017 requires balikbayan boxes to include an itemized list of all its contents and receipts of newly-puchased items inside the box. It also requires receivers to be solely relatives and family members who have to prove that they are Filipino citizens.

“Itong mga taga-Customs, halatang walang malasakit at walang respeto sa mga OFW. Hindi ba nila alam na kasama sa sayang dulot ng balikbayan box ang surpresang dulot nito sa mga pamilya? Pati ba naman ito ay tatanggalin nila? Gusto nilang tanggalin ang saya ng OFW at pamilya sa pagpapadala at pagtanggap ng balikbayan box,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante International Spokesperson.

“Ang sabi pa ng BoC, wala raw dapat ikatakot ang mga OFW kung wala naman silang itinatago. Ang sagot dito ng mga OFW, bakit kami ang pinag-iinitan ninyo? Hindi kami mga kriminal na nagpupuslit ng kontrabando. Bakit kami ang pinagdidiskitahan ng gobyerno gayong hindi naman nila masawata ang mga malalaking iligal na smuggler at sindikato? Pawis at dugo ng mga OFW ang puhunan para mapuno ang bawat isang balikbayan box.” Hernando said.

Hernando said, “The balikbayan box is sacred to OFWs. The most of humble balikbayan boxes contains the most personalized translation of love and affection for its recipients. Sending and receiving it is a delightful event in itself. The least the government could do is to make sure that this simple vehicle of love is not burdened by unnecessary requirements and money-making schemes at the expense of OFWs and their families,” Hernando said. ###

 

Thousands of OFWs to face crackdowns as Saudi amnesty ends on July 24

Since the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia launched its amnesty campaign on March 29, only more than 6,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been repatriated by the Philippine government.

This figure is short of the 15,000 who registered for the program, or those who the Philippine embassy deemed “qualified” for repatriation. These include OFWs who have overstayed their visa, OFWs with expired iqama, workers who have left their employers, and, workers who came in with a work permit but did not obtain their iqama within 90 days of arrival.

The amnesty, however, does not provide remedy for workers who have existing or pending labor complaints at the Saudi Ministry of Labor, such as non-payment of wages and other benefits.

“We have said before that while the Saudi amnesty program is a crucial opportunity for the Duterte government to process the repatriation of hundeds of thousands of stranded OFWs, we have also reiterated that it should play a more pro-active role and not be complacent and depend solely on the amnesty program. The number of repatriated OFWs shows a dismal effort on the part of the government. It is a far cry from the government’s own target, and definitely miniscule compared to the efforts of other governments. Ethiopa, for one, has already repatriated at least 60,000 of its nationals since the amnesty program took place,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante International spokesperson.

“The issue of unpaid wages and labor violations is also still prevalent among OFWs since the Saudi crisis erupted in 2014-2015. What will become of them when the July 24 deadline ends?”

Hernando said that many OFWs are still awaiting resolution of their cases, at the prompting of the Duterte government through the DOLE (Deparment of Labor and Employment). “Last year, when DOLE Sec. Bello visited Saudi, he encouraged OFWs to file labor complaints at the Saudi Labor Ministry. Bello promised legal assistance to these OFWs. They signed SPAs (special powers of attorney) to allow the Duterte government to represent them in their cases. Understandably, these OFWs would opt to stay instead of avail of the amnesty in anticipation of the wages that are due them. What is the Duterte government’s recourse for them?”

“Sadly, OFWs who have been waiting for months, even years, for the resolution of their labor complaints may find the amnesty their only feasible solution and just opt to forfeit their claims. Again, what is the Duterte government’s plan for them?” Hernando said.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be launching crackdowns on undocumented migrants after the July 24 deadline of the amnesty program.

Migrante International submitted a set of demands to the DOLE on July 14, 2017 in anticipation of the July 24 deadline (see attached). The demands include:

  1. The immediate mass repatriation of ALL stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia.
  • For the POLO, POEA, OWWA and recruitment agencies to immediately process exit visas and provide air tickets at no cost to the stranded OFWs. Some returned OFWs have complained of paying for their own ticket fares just to be able to avail of the amnesty.
  • For the PH posts to dispatch teams to far-flung provinces, labor camps and areas to assist OFWs who want to avail of the amnesty but have no means to do so.
  • For the Duterte government to secure chartered flights, as had been done by other embassies and governments, to ensure that enough flights can ferry those who want to be repatriated. Because the Duterte government has relied solely on flights provided for by the Saudi government, some OFWs have resorted to shelling out money to pay for their own air fare. Others remain stranded despite having completed their repatriation process, awaiting available flights.
  • For the Duterte government to appeal for an extension of the amnesty program to cater to thousands more who are yet to be assisted by Duterte posts.
  1. Comprehensive assistance for returning, returned and stranded OFWs and their families, including but not limited to financial, legal (for cases filed in Saudi Arabia and in the Philippines), medical, counselling and other psycho-social assistance.
  2. Comprehensive reintegration program for returned OFWs in the form of regular jobs with decent wages in the country and not dole-outs, band-aid solutions and loan packages.
  3. Seriously review the consideration of a deployment ban on household service workers due to the rising number of abuses, rape, sexual harassment and other cases of maltreatment of female domestic workers in Saudi Arabia.

“Unless these are decisively addressed, the July 24 deadline poses a clear and present danger to hundreds of thousands of undocumented OFWs in Saudi Arabia.,” Hernando said.

Thousands of stranded OFWs are in danger of being violently dispersed, arrested and detained by Saudi authorities as crackdowns against undocumented migrants are expected to resume, he said. “At this time, the government should not only be pro-active but preemptive. They should provide legal assistance and protection. PH posts should open their doors to stranded OFWs, to provide them sanctuary and prevent a repeat of the Tent City in 2013. Aside from an extension of the amnesty program, the Duterte government should demand a stop to the scheduled crackdowns in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis,” he said.

Returned OFWs from Saudi Arabia and their families will join the Migrante contingent on the People’s SONA protests on July 24. ###

No to martial law extension, stop the AFP’s “all-out war” against the people – Migrante

Migrante International strongly opposes moves by the Duterte regime and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to extend martial law in Mindanao.

Martial law in Mindanao has resulted in countless deaths, destruction and numerous human rights abuses brought on by the military’s indiscriminate bombings and air strikes.  It has also been used by state forces to carry out harassment, extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and the filing of trumped-up charges against activists, progressives and civil libertarians, not only in Mindanao but in Visayas and Luzon.

It is no secret that militarists and opportunists in the Duterte government want to extend and expand martial law for their own interests. The extension of martial law in Mindanao represents a clear and present threat of an expansion of military rule not only in Mindanao but a military takeover of the government. Such a move will further pave the way for a possible declaration of martial law nationwide.

Migrante International condemns in most vehement terms orders by Defense Sec. Lorenzana to utilize the martial law in Mindanao to carry out and intensify the AFP’s “all-out war” counter-insurgency operations. History has proven that martial law cannot and will not pave the way to peace and stability. Instead, most vulnerable to human rights and violations are the Filipino people — unionists who strike for better wages, farmers and national minorities who struggle for land, the poor who fight for better services and against state repression. Extending martial law in Mindanao will set the stage for the large-scale violation of human rights by the AFP and other state forces.

History has also proven that martial law failed to address the root causes of the CPP-NPA-NDF armed rebellion as well as the Moro people’s struggle for the right to self-determination. Extending martial law in Mindanao, and its possible expansion nationwide, will be a momentous stumbling block to the Filipino people’s aspiration and commitment to a just and lasting peace.

Migrante also condemns in strongest terms the apparent US-hand not only in the Marawi conflict but in moves to extend martial law in Mindanao and expand it nationwide. Filipinos here and abroad resist and reject US involvement in the Marawi conflict and in Philippine affairs. Our nation should not fall prey to the US ploy of wreaking terror and division to advance their economic and political interests in the country and in the region, similar to what they are waging in Syria, Venezuela and other countries where people are asserting their independence.

Nothing good ever comes out of US interventionist wars. The Filipino people will not allow Pres. Duterte to fall into the same trap that happened in Syria, Libya and elsewhere. In line with the US pivot to Asia, the US-hand in the Marawi conflict and the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, enabled by US puppets in the Duterte government, has already been exposed. Migrante calls for the lifting of martial law and the immediate pull out of US troops from Philippine soil.

Migrante enjoins all OFWs and their families here and abroad to join the protest against the Duterte regime’s attempt to convene a joint session of Congress on July 22 to extend martial law in Mindanao.

On July 24, Migrante International calls on all peace-loving and freedom-fighting Filipinos all over the world to join the People’s SONA to call the for lifting of martial law, the pull out of US troops and the resumption of the GRP-NDF peace talks. ###

 

 

“Thanks, but no thanks”, OFWs slam new OFW ID

Flaunted by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as President Duterte’s “best gift” to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the OFW ID or the iDOLE is now receiving flak from OFWs and different sectors.

According to Arman Hernando, Migrante International spokesperson, the iDOLE is a haphazard attempt to impress and appease OFWs in time for the president’s next State of the Nation Address (SONA). “Unfortunately, it has been exposed as yet another money-making scheme as quickly as it was hastily launched by the government.”

“How could it be the ‘best gift’ when even the DOLE is clueless on its relevance? There is as yet no implementing guidelines on how it is supposed to function. It will not even benefit all OFWs and only new hires. Worse, the DOLE claims that it will be free of charge, to replace the useless scrap of paper that is the OEC (overseas employment certificate), but it turns out to be seven times more expensive at Php701. Employers are expected to pay for the iDOLE but since when has this stopped them from passing on the burden to recruitment agencies and, consequently, to OFWs?” Hernando said.

“Thanks, but no thanks, President Duterte. Hindi po ito regalo kundi dagdag-perwisyo para sa mga OFW.”

 Hernando said that the government would do well to cease from its “big talk” and instead genuinely address issues that would stop forced migration and put an end to the policy of labor export.

Migrante described Duterte’s first year in office as “a year of big talk, band-aids and business-as-usual” for OFWs and their families.

“For all his posturing and promises, Duterte has so far done nothing substantial to curb forced migration, something that he promised to make ‘optional and not a necessity’ when he assumed office. Instead, what we have seen thus far is a rehash of the same neoliberal policy of labor export when it comes to peddling Filipinos’ cheap and docile labor to the global market. Talk is cheap, band-aids are temporary and business-as-usual means a never-ending and chronic cycle for OFWs and their families. We do not wish to hear more of the same from President Duterte in his SONA,” he said.

Migrante International will join the BAYAN-led contingent in the upcoming People’s SONA here and abroad on July 24. ###

SUMA 2017: A year of big talk, band-aids and business-as-usual for OFWs and families

State of Migrants, Prepared by Migrante International, June 30, 2017

President Rodrigo Duterte, for all his posturing and promises, has so far done nothing substantial to curb forced migration, something that he promised to make “optional and not a necessity” when he assumed office. Instead, what we have seen thus far is a rehash of the same neoliberal policy of labor export when it comes to peddling Filipinos’ cheap and docile labor to the global market.

 

Weak economy resulting in forced migration

Pres. Duterte’s earlier promise to end contractualization by yearend 2016 was widely welcomed even by OFWs because it brought hope of them coming home to decent-paying regular jobs. However, this promise is yet to be fulfilled. In light of the continuing crisis in the Middle East and looming mass deportations of undocumented migrants in the USA and Europe, OFWs are expected to return to the country only to be forcibly driven away again to seek jobs despite risky conditions abroad.

Independent think-tank IBON Foundation estimates that there are still 11.5 million Filipinos who are without work or still looking for more work because of the poor quality of jobs. There were 24.4 million citizens in low-paying and insecure work with little or no benefits in 2016. The most recent Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Order 174 has been exposed to even fortify the practice of contractualization rather than end it.

With the passage of DO 174-2017, packaged as the government’s solution to workers’ problems, contractualization is legalized, aggravating the already rampant problem of labor flexibilization, depressed wages, and, ultimately, more massive unemployment.

Widespread unemployment and contractualization are root causes of forced migration. Fewer Filipinos were jobless in the first quarter of 2017 compared to 2016, but Filipino optimism on job prospects went down as well, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey revealed. According to Trading Economics, a New York-based global economics research institute, unemployment rate in the Philippines rose to 6.6 percent in the first quarter of 2017, from 4.7 percent in the December quarter. This is the highest jobless rate since March 2015.

The gap between the rich and the poor has further widened, with the income of the top 1% of families equivalent to that of the bottom 30% of households (IBON). According to Forbes, 13 of the richest Filipinos made it to its top billionaires of the world in March 2017.

It is in this light that Migrante International fully supports workers’ demand for a P750 national minimum wage. A P750 national minimum wage can significantly reverse the migration of OFWs. If implemented, for every year, around 200,000 workers can opt to stay and contribute their labor and skills to nation-building while living decently with their families.

Based on Migrante’s study, OFWs who receive a basic salary of USD$400-500 per month would prefer to work in the Philippines instead because their income will be at par with the pay they receive abroad.

Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) shows that since 2011 the country has been annually deploying at least 200,000 OFWs to job positions with salaries ranging from USD$400-500 per month. Majority are household service workers and general laborers in the Middle East who receive monthly salaries of USD$400 1,500 Saudi riyals, respectively. According to 2015 data from the PSA, these OFWs account for 33 percent of the total OFW deployment.

Meanwhile, OFWs are coming back home in droves not because they choose to but because of the effects of an ongoing global economic crisis in host countries. Hundreds of thousands of OFWs are being displaced and retrenched in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. What awaits them in the event of their emergency return? Definitely there are not enough decent-paying domestic jobs available. What the Duterte government offers are mere dole-outs and band-aid solutions that are not long-term solutions to unemployment, low wages and lack of social services.

 

Intensification of labor export

The government’s response to the ongoing crisis in Saudi Arabia is testament to the continuing bankrupty of the Philippines’ labor export policy. Last July 2016, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Sec. Silvestre Bello III promised to resolve the issue of stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia by yearend. Now, a year since, what has the government done so far in response to their plight?

In a press conference in Malacanang last November 22, Sec. Bello announced that “only 2,000 OFWs remain to be repatriated in Saudi Arabia”. In the same breath, Sec. Bello said that they “have succeeded in bringing back 3,000 OFWs while the rest have managed to find good-paying jobs in other companies”. This statement is very problematic.

Firstly, the government merely accounts for some 5,000 affected OFWs, still a far cry from the 11,000 it vowed to repatriate early on – and still yet a small percent of the actual number of affected OFWs outside of the three big companies, Saudi Oger Ltd, Saudi Billadin Group (SBG) and Mohammad Al Mojil Group (MMG).

Sec. Bello, in the same press conference, announced that the OFWs opting to transfer to other companies “made it easier for us (the government)”, but he also admitted that the OFWs have not yet been paid their withheld wages and necessary money claims. These statements are not only contradictory but treacherous on the part of the government.

On one hand, while efforts of relief operations and on-site assistance should be lauded, these are short-term and band-aid solutions that do nothing to address the major issues of emergency repatriation, labor issues and comprehensive reintegration for affected OFWs and their families.

Government efforts have also been fragmented, with various agencies involved, particularly the DOLE and Department of Foregin Affairs (DFA), “one-upping” each other in terms of who played a command role in the government’s humanitarian mission to Saudi Arabia. Migrante’s sources in the DFA claim that after the initial and only press conference, where Sec. Bello and DFA’s Perfecto Yasay publicly flanked Pres. Duterte as he welcomed a handful of repatriated OFWs from Saudi, the labor secretary had been reluctant to conduct a follow-up humanitarian mission after he first one in July.

Thus begging the question: Was the DOLE’s objective in the government’s humanitarian mission to Saudi Arabia not really for the main purpose of repatriating stranded OFWs but conducting damage-control for the beleaguered Saudi companies and local recruitment agencies through the facilitation of job transfers?

If so, the promise to “end the Saudi stranded crisis” by yearend 2016 was misleading and bound to fail from the start. Job transfers of crisis-ridden OFWs have been the thrust of the previous governments – as in the case of the MMG workers who initially called for emergency mass repatriation in 2014, were convinced by the PH government to be transferred to other companies, only to enlist yet again for repatration in 2015 after the company they transferred too was also affected by the Saudi crisis.

If Sec. Bello worked mainly to facilitate job transfers, then he only succeeded in buying time for and “rescuing” the companies and local private recruitment agencies instead of the affected OFWs. This is unsurprisingly in line with DO 174 and other deceiving, pro-capitalist and anti-labor policies that the DOLE has been advocating thus far.

Meanwhile, the crisis in Saudi and the Middle East continue to worsen. OFWs, those who Sec. Bello said “opted” to stay on, have not become impervious to the crisis just because they were transferred to different companies. The crisis is also now affecting not only OFWs in industrial and construction sites but those in the service and health sectors as well.

The Duterte government, however, now appears to deem the Saudi crisis fait accompli, problem-solved, and therefore business-as-usual between the Philippine government and its biggest OFW labor importer.

Remittances from OFWs remain at record-high despite the global economic crisis, reaching a record-high USD$26.9 billion in 2016 and accounting for 10 percent of the country’s Domestic Product (GDP). However, although annual remittances increased, its growth rate has been decreasing in recent years. The continuing decrease in growth rate is a constant worry for the Philippine government. If the trend continues, as it is expected to, the governent will be in big trouble because it relies mainly on remittances for its foreign exchange revenues.

This explains the Duterte administration’s thrust to further to seek job markets abroad and intensify its labor export program. Through remittances, the government earns exponentially without having to shell out much capital investment. Even funds for labor export management through agencies sucha as the POEA or the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) are directly sourced from OFWs or recruitment agencies and employers through an assortment of fees.

Duterte, while mouthing local job generation as the government’s core program to eliminate forced migration, continues to hail the “bagong bayani” and their “contribution to the economy” to further promote labor export. To do this, he has become more aggressive and active in lobbying for job markets and signing of bilateral agreements with host countries in the past year though numerous state visits.

Aside from remittances, labor export also provides a tempting alternative to the unemployed and underemployed. Through it, the government insulates itself from its responsibility to create local regular jobs that offer decent wages. Instead, it becomes more convenient to evade genuine and strategic policy reforms to turn the economy around.

The  country’s  economic  situation  has  not  improved  under Duterte’s rehashed neoliberal economic policies. Duterte’s “10-point economic agenda” still relies heavily on foreign investment, debt and export-dependence, particularly the dependence on the export Filipinos’ cheap labor in exchange for remittances.

 

Foreign policy

With regard foreign policies and relations affecting our OFWs and Filipinos overseas, Duterte’s statement that he “will not lift a finger” to help the almost one million undocumented Filipino e/migrants in the US under threat of mass deportation due to US Pres. Trump’s anti-migrant program is very telling of his overall attitude and policy.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), there are currently 3.4 million Filipinos in the US, second only to Saudi Arabia in terms of Filipino populace. Of the 3.4 million, close to one million are undocumented and vulnerable to Trump’s repressive crackdown.

It is the government’s duty to assist Filipinos abroad, regardless of their status. Do we turn our backs on them when they direly need the help of their government? Should any harm befall them in the US, Duterte will be to blame if he continues to tolerate and support Trump’s neo-fascism.

The Duterte government’s position calling on all undocumented Filipinos in the US to “just come home” is also a very insensitive stance. Like all other OFWs, they were forced to seek so-called better pastures in the US (or elsewhere in the world) due to widespread joblessness, contractualization and low wages, landlessness and lack of basic social services. Over the years, OFWs in conflict-ridden areas have opted to stay and risk their lives and welfare because they know that no jobs await them in the Philippines.

The plight of OFWs against racism, xenophobia, rights violations and fascism in host countries is also a very important agenda in the peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. Unfortunately, the Duterte government has withdrawn from the 5th round of formal negotiations.

 

Welfare and services

The economic compulsion for the government to keep exporting Filipinos to maintain or especially to increase remittances unfortunately overrides and precludes undertaking any measures that (i.e. OEC partial abolition, extension of passport validity, stopping of “tanim-bala” scheme, etc.), directly or indirectly, constrict the flow of migration – even if such measures would immediately prevent the incidence of abuses and migrant rights violations.

Indeed, there has been a growing clamor among (overseas Filipino workers) OFWs and their families for a “one-stop shop” that would cater to better services and  the protection and promotion of OFWs. This is mainly because the present “one-country-approach” being implemented by agencies tasked to provide direct services to OFWs, namely, the DFA, DOLE, OWWA and POEA, has been deemed dysfunctional, anti-migrant and inoperative.

Migrante therefore sees and appreciates the rationale behind Duterte’s proposal of establishing a “Department of OFWs (DOFW)” that seeks to systematize, consolidate and strengthen government efforts to protect our OFWs. This proposal in itself is already an initial critique of the performance of the above-mentioned government agencies over the years.

Migrante, however, forwards serious apprehensions on the basis of its assessment of the performances of existing agencies concerned with dealing with OFW services and welfare.

If a DOFW is to be established, it is imperative that the Duterte administration first thoroughly investigates how current concerned agencies, as well as existing laws and policies, benefited or failed our OFWs and their families. Duterte’s proposal to create a DOFW should not work to merely further institutionalize labor export, but instead address the decades-long clamor of OFWs and their families to put an end to it.

Filipinos are being forced to migrate because of desperation as a result out of the economy’s lack of development resulting in job loss, low wages and lack of livelihood at home. OFWs have borne witness to how insincere, insensitive and inept past governments have been in upholding and securing the protection and welfare of OFWs. The past four decades of Philippine labor export has showcased a more blatant and unapologetic policy that continues to exploit OFWs’ cheap labor and foreign remittances in accordance to neoliberal interests and dictates.

Migrante can only be compelled to support the formation of a DOFW if, and only if, it would work towards the eventual irrelevance of such a department and instead strive for a society in which families do not need to be torn apart just to survive.

 

Prospects

Unless Pres. Duterte makes good his promise to address the root causes of forced migration, it will be a never-ending and chronic cycle for OFWs and their families. If Duterte sincerely wants our OFWs to come back home, we need more regular jobs, higher wages and pro-labor policies, not a labor export policy that has long gone bankrupt.

To genuinely address the problem of forced migration, economic policies should focus on developing the national economy by advancing local industries, agriculture and basic services.

Migrante International fully supports the call and struggle for national industrialization and genuine land reform as the ultimate solution to the problem of forced migration. ###

 

Lift martial law, US troops out of PH soil, resume GRP-NDF peace talks! – Migrante

Migrante International joined today’s BAYAN-led Independence Day protests to condemn the ongoing martial law in Marawi and the direct intervention of US special forces against the Maute/ISIS threat in Mindanao.

“We call on President Duterte, as the Commander-in-Chief, to immediately halt the airstrikes and double-time evacuation efforts to save Marawi from carnage. We call on all peace-loving and freedom-fighting Filipinos to unite against the terrorist groups connected with US-CIA-created ISIS, and resist military take-over of Mindanao,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante International spokesperson.

Hernando also called on Filipinos around the world to resist and reject US involvment in the Marawi conflict. “Our nation should not fall prey to the ploy of foreign powers to wreak terror and division to advance their economic and political interests, similar to what they are staging in Syria, Venezuela and other countries where people are asserting their independence and democratic rights,” he said.

“Nothing good ever comes out of US interventionist wars. The Filipino people should not allow Duterte to fall into the same trap that happened in Syria, Libya and elsewhere. In line with the US pivot to Asia, the US-hand in the Marawi conflict, enabled by US puppets in the Duterte government, is now further exposed. We call for the lifting of martial law and the immediate pull out of all US troops.”

“Instead, we should all strive to achieve a just and lasting peace. A militarist and Marcosian policy will never be the solution to the deeply-rooted problems of our society. Duterte should stand by his declaration of an independent foreign policy and rejection of US control in the country. An independent foreign policy can and should be addressed compehensively by the Duterte government while pursuing the GRP-NDF peace talks,” Hernando said. ###