Confinement indoors and limited gatherings due to quarantine and lockdown restrictions did not stop Filipino migrants around the world from banging pots and other instruments for its Global Kalampagan on Easter Sunday to press the Duterte government to take action for OFWs severely hit by the COVID-19 recession and pandemic. Members of Migrante International used different hashtags and slogans like: #OFWAssistanceNow; #NasaanAngTulong; #FreeMassTestingNow; Solusyong Medikal, hindi militar; Tulong hindi kulong; Bigas hindi dahas; Ayuda, hindi diktadura.
Joanna Concepcion of Migrante International said, “Filipino Migrants from around the world launched noise barrages in their respective host countries to bring to light the plight of the most vulnerable among our sector affected by the COVID pandemic—the undocumented, temporary and contractual migrants, migrant frontline workers, detained migrants, repatriated and abandoned migrants, human trafficking victims and Seafarers.”
With its allies, Migrante International rallied its member organizations and chapters across the globe on Sunday after it questioned the Duterte administration’s DOLE-AKAP one-time cash aid of Php10 thousand to a very limited number of OFWs from a list of selected countries. In a statement issued on Saturday, Migrante International said, “only 150,000 OFWs will be getting the one-time financial assistance of Php 10K or US$200 from DOLE. This is even less than half of the 420,000 OFWs expected to return back to the Philippines due to the COVID-19 recession.”
Migrante Philippines published infographic slides to help OFWs gain more information about the DOLE-AKAP program. “OFWs are dismayed and overwhelmed with anxieties upon finding out the imposed limitations on DOLE’s cash assistance. They were hoping that everyone would receive aid since this was what President Duterte and DOLE Secretary Bello promised. This was supposed to help them get by with their basic needs now that they are being stricken by the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines and in their respected host countries,” Migrante Philippines Chairperson Arman Hernando lamented.
A petition was launched by Migrante International – Middle East to express frustration on the limited aid presumptively being undertaken by President Duterte through DOLE. The petition stated, “We, the undersigned, are calling on the Philippine government under President Rodrigo Duterte to release the financial assistance for all OFWs in need, and for all who are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, whichever country they are located.”
On its Facebook page, Migrante Hongkong called for immediate aid for their families back home in the Philippines. Its members called for a moratorium on state exactions imposed by the Duterte government on OFWs.
In a video statement, Maria Sol Prieto-Pajadura of Migrante Canada said, “thousands have lost their wages and are unable to send money to their starving families. Migrants contribute significantly to the Philippine economy because of the millions they send through remittances each year. At the present time when the crisis of COVID-19 intensifies they need urgent support from the Duterte government. So Migrante Canada is joining all OFWs and calling OFW Assistance Now!”
Meanwhile, Migrante members in Australia backed the call of its ally Philippines Australia Solidarity Association (PASA) to release all political prisoners in the Philippines who were illegally arrested based on trumped-up charges. They fear that horribly congested jails in the Philippines make political prisoners especially the sick and the elderly susceptible to COVID-19 infection.
Raising concerns for neglected seafarers, Migrante USA blasted the Duterte administration for the little attention being paid to the health and wellbeing of cruise ship workers. One Filipino worker for Grand Princess Cruise Ship has already died from COVID-19 in San Francisco. “If Duterte continues to willingly ignore the plight of the people, the death of OFW and their families will be in his hands,” Nap Pempena of Migrante USA stated.
Filipino migrants in Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, France and other countries in Europe uploaded videos of their noise barrage protests. A social media action was also conducted by Migrante members in Europe on Saturday, 11 April 2020 to express solidarity for the Spanish people gravely reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. They also blasted the Duterte regime for its overemphasis on military action instead of implementing a comprehensive socio-economic and medical solution to COVID-19.
“Instead of implementing mass COVID-19 testing, and offering help for those unable to work and pay for their mounting expenses, Duterte allowed the police and the military to reign in the streets and threaten the public. For every single day that this kind of situation remains, the condition of the Filipino people will worsen. How many lives will be lost before this Fascist regime comes to its senses? It’s not only COVID-19 that needs to be terminated but likewise the rotten system of the government,” Migrante Europe stated in a joint statement with its allies uploaded on Migrante Utrecht’s Facebook page.
Using Facebook Live, Migrante members in South Korea and other countries shared the grievances and experiences of OFWs in their respected host countries. Migrante International’s noise barrage action is set to be held anew on the 18th and 25th of April as part of its Global Kalampagan every weekend. “We are calling on the Philippine government to provide free and immediate assistance to ALL of our distressed migrants. No more delays and no discriminatory practices in providing relief,” Concepcion concluded.