Bankrupt gov’t making money out of OFWs – Migrante International

In line with the newly-imposed policy of the Philippine consulate in Dubai requiring overseas Filipino workers to apply for authenticated affidavit of supports (AOS) for visiting relatives, OFWs in Macau are reiterating calls to scrap the reinstated AOS in said country.

Filipino organizations in Macau have been up in arms since the Philippine consulate and the Bureau of Immigration re-imposed the AOS requirement in June 2010.

According to Migrante-Macau coordinator Catalina Yamat, the AOS requirement in Macau has been repeatedly scrapped and reinstated in 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2010. She added that they observed that in the previous years, it had been reinstated always one year before election period.

The AOS requirement in Macau has been suspended twice as a result of protests from the Filipino community there. It is unclear until now if the AOS is a requirement from Macau authorities or the Philippine government alone, likewise with the AOS requirement in Dubai. The AOS requirement in Macau costs MOP220 (P1320).

A petition letter was initiated by Migrante Macau and the Filipino Migrant Ministry questioning the legal basis for the imposition of the AOS in Macau. The petition netted signatories from 12 organizations in Macau.

Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luz Ilagan had also filed a resolution calling for an inquiry and investigation into the matter during the 14th Congress.

AOS as another money-making scheme

For his part, Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, said that the institutionalization of the AOS requirement in countries where there are concentrations of OFWs is worrisome and might be a source of corruption of immigration officials.

“It is an added burden financially to our OFWs. The Philippine government’s rationale that it would curb human trafficking and illegal recruitment is not sufficient because the Philippine government should be doing its job at no added cost to our OFWs.” He added that the AOS requirement also violates every Filipino citizen’s right to travel abroad.

Martinez said that the AOS requirement is yet another money-making scheme. “Pangongotong ito sa ating mga OFW, especially now that the holiday seasons are approaching and relatives are expected to visit.”

“Sadly, we do not see significant and positive changes happening for our OFWs under the Aquino administration. As with previous administrations, this latest development only shows that the Aquino government views our poor OFWs as milking cows. We call on our OFWs in other countries to be vigilant against the imposition of this AOS scheme.”

OFWs have been complaining of mandatory collection of fees, such as the $25 OWWA membership fee, POEA’s processing fees, medicare, and costs for the acquisition of 76 signatures from various offices, Pag-Ibig contributions, and the arbitrary increase in the new e-passport fees. Migrante International pegs an estimated P32.8 billion being collected annually by the government from existing fees imposed on OFWs. “This amount is on top of OFW remittances.”

Martinez said that another fee imposition such as the AOS requirement is not welcome in light of the 50 percent budget cut on funds for OFW assistance in the proposed 2011 national budget.

Migrante International is gearing for an internationally-coordinated action against OFW budget cuts and fee impositions in time for Aquino’s 100 days in office. ###