OFWs and families burdened by skyrocketing inflation

OFWs are now feeling the crunch as  Duterte’s TRAIN hatched decade high inflation plunged the real value of their average monthly remittance of Php20,000 to just Php16,982. This is Php1,078 lower from the real value recorded in the same period last year which was Php17,969.

41286858_337629283478681_6614054403806593024_nThere is no denying that Dutertenomics has accomplished much in propelling the Philippines to the top in almost all negative economic tables. The upsurge of the country’s inflation to a nine-year high of 6.4%, the highest in ASEAN, and the peso’s depreciation to its lowest in thirteen years exposes the regime’s incompetence in addressing the people’s economic woes.

More than ever, OFWs battered by political and economic upheavals in their host countries will have to take on severe austerity measures to conserve money for remittances so that their struggling families back home can keep up with the unabated price hikes brought about by Duterte’s TRAIN Law. For many, it would entail picking up side jobs and going overtime for extra cash.

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For an economy reliant on debt-driven growth through Duterte’s Build Build Build program, the peso’s depreciation will increase the value of the country’s foreign debt and likewise will be a big blow to a country overly dependent on imports like the loathsome weevil-infested rice and the WPS-sourced galunggong which are paid in dollar terms.

High importations have resulted to the diminution of the country’s dollar reserves now at a 6-year low. To address this, the regime will again count on OFW dollar remittances but even these have become less reliable. This year’s January to June-cash remittances fell at 2.6%, the slowest first semester growth in 17 years.

Lest we forget that this year’s tormenting price increases are still under the first round of Duterte’s 5-phased TRAIN Law. Expect more excruciating price hikes in the coming years.

Contrary to the regime’s claim that the TRAIN Law will benefit Filipinos, it is the poor who are hit the hardest. Government spending for social services like education and healthcare is blighted with budget cuts. Intentionally, the regime is dragging down the Philippines’ human development ranking for the sake of subsidizing the private profit of the wealthy few even if it means taxing the poor to death.

Worst, these cutbacks on social services are matched with overspending on Duterte’s atrocious three-pronged war. In the face of the people’s sufferings, the regime even exhibited its extreme audacity to waste taxpayers’ money for its huge military junket during an overseas state-visit.

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As how one economic expert puts it, Duterte’s TRAIN wreck is nothing but Tax Reform for Accelerating Inflation. By generating a series of crisis to address every crisis, Duterte is making a fool of himself in his stubborn devotion to regressive Neoliberal economics. Filipino migrant workers and their families will not just sit back and watch as the regime plagues the country with anti-people policies. There will be an outpouring of the Filipino people’s collective wrath against the Duterte regime.

 

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In his Israel-Jordan trip, Duterte to seal deals for heightened tyranny

For overseas Filipino workers facing innumerable woes in the Middle East, Duterte’s state visit to Israel poses a grave concern. Cimatu’s advanced arrival ahead of the presidential delegation and Duterte’s announcement of bringing along retiring military and police officials to discuss defence and security issues with Israel is turning out to be the real deal for the regime rather than the rights and welfare issues hounding Filipino workers in Israel.

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The volatile situation in the Middle East due to the strife between archenemies Israel and Iran will be aggravated by Duterte’s visit.  His manifold acquisition of Israeli-made weapons will certainly send strong signals towards Israel’s enemies in the region. As what we have seen in previous outbreaks of war, Filipino workers are often caught in harm’s way when their workplaces become battlefields between conflicting Middle Eastern armies.

For quite some time now, AFP has been stacking a considerable amount of arms sourced from Israeli arms suppliers. We are seeing how these acquired Israeli weapons are being utilized for Duterte’s Fascist agenda of violent repression and brutal carnage in the Philippines.

In exchange for more deals on arms importation and labour exportation, the Duterte regime is even willing to offer our natural resources for the exploitation of Israeli capitalists. An Israeli firm has been itching to seal its investment entry into our oil reserves under the Department of Energy’s modified Philippine Conventional Energy Contracting Program. The agreement is being arranged so that it will be signed before the presence of Duterte during his visit.

Duterte’s isolation in the international community after his fierce exchanges with significant UN personalities over the human rights situation in the country has earned him the backing of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Duterte and Netanyahu will likely negotiate for each other’s UN votes to shield them from criminal liabilities. In July 2017, the Philippines was one of only 3 countries that voted against a UNESCO resolution denouncing Israel’s destructive excavations in the eastern part of Jerusalem.

UN personalities were not spared from Duterte’s diatribes. He even threatened to slap UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard for denouncing extrajudicial killings in the country. Early this year, the Duterte regime through DOJ sought a terrorist-tag against Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a UN special rapporteur on indigenous peoples’ rights. These among many other reasons moved UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein to urge Duterte to submit himself to a psychiatric evaluation. Zeid is part of the Jordanian royalty whose high-profile members are scheduled to meet Duterte in Jordan after he completes his itinerary in Israel. Last month, Duterte arrogantly warned that he will resume his verbal attacks against Zeid if Jordan fails to deliver on its promised choppers.

Instead of being too preoccupied with the Cobra helicopters from Jordan, Duterte should primarily work on the issues and concerns of Jordan’s 28,000 OFWs. According to a Jordanian news agency, almost 40 % of foreign domestic helpers in Jordan do not receive their salary on a regular basis. In Israel, many Filipino caregivers are charged by recruitment agencies with exorbitant amounts of brokerage fees. Despite these, we anticipate that any discussion with Israel and Jordan about Filipino workers is still geared towards augmenting the regime’s labour export program.

For blatantly using migrant issues as a cover-up for Duterte’s militarist objectives in his upcoming state visit to Israel, Filipino workers there must keep an eye on the regime’s diplomatic moves and expose all his self-serving agenda intended to perpetuate his reign of terror in the Philippines.

 

BSP’s view on the OFW remittance decline, misleading — Migrante

Reacting to the 4.5 % OFW remittance decline in June, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) pointed to the repatriation of 4,149 Filipinos from UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in the first two months of the year. Migrante sees this ascription as sketchy and misleading.

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(Photo: from the movie “Remittance”)

What the BSP does not tell us is that the real reason for the decline is the on-going economic crisis in the Middle East brought forth by the armed conflict, political squabbles and trade wars among countries in the region. Saudi’s servile stance to US imperialist interests dragged it to a costly war against Yemen which has been raging for 3 years as well as its financial involvement in the US-led armed conflict in Syria. Adding insult to injury is Saudi’s diplomatic rancour with Canada.

Considering all countries where Filipino workers are deployed, the growth rate in overall personal remittances has slumped to its slowest since 2010.  From an average growth rate of 7% in the period of 2010 to 2015, it went down to 4.4 % in 2016, slightly rose to 5.3% in 2017 (World Bank), before plunging to 2.8% in 2018. These glaring figures tell us that the downturn has been trending in the last 2 and half years as compared to the inflow surge from 2010 to 2015 where 2014 was the highest at 8.6 %.

Filipino workers in Saudi are hard-hit by this fallout. Cash transfers from the Arab country fell to 4.6% in 2017. The last time it reached this level was during the Asian financial crisis and in the 2008 global crisis. The imposition of value added tax in Saudi also led to price hikes in goods and services. At an increasing rate, many establishments are also closing down.

As Saudi employers writhe from these economic repercussions, cases of delayed, decreasing or unpaid salaries have worsened. In every region, the number of stranded OFWs soared to 500. This number doesn’t even account for those who have sought shelter from their relatives and friends. Their troubles escalate as Saudi’s expat dependent tax is expected to rise in the coming years.

The Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) has failed miserably in addressing the labour cases resulting from the crisis. Many OFWs in Saudi are struggling to obtain their end-of-service benefits. Worse, POLO is even prodding troubled OFWs to just content themselves with meagre amounts towing on the ridiculous line that it is more preferable than receiving nothing at all.

As part of the Saudization plan, the labor ministry of Saudi has intensified its crackdown on illegal residents and workers. Many of these workers have actually entered Saudi as legal workers but ended up in complicated labor situations due to contract violations of employers. Saudization is also targeting Filipino professionals and those in managerial positions.

One of the features of Saudization is visa restrictions to labour exporting countries and the setting up of block positions for locals. The effect is the confinement of migrants to dirty, difficult and dangerous low-paying occupations entailing a hefty impact on cash flows back to their home countries.

For now, the Saudi crackdown has mostly affected Yemenis and Ethiopians. Nevertheless, security issues alarm Filipinos as the threat of zoning or house-to-house crackdown is looming.  The absence of a more comprehensive repatriation and reintegration plan underlines the incompetence of the Duterte regime. In the same manner as that of Cory and Erap, the deployment ban posturing of Duterte was short-lived.

The Philippines’ record high inflation rate caused by Duterte’s TRAIN law and widespread unemployment will expose newly-deployed Filipinos in dire straits as they scour for additional cash to be sent back home. We can expect that the Duterte regime will exacerbate its labor export program to cushion the impact of the Middle East crisis.

 

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Reference: Arman Hernando, Spokesperson, Migrante International, 0932-509-50-54

 

 

 

REPATRIATION PLAN URGENTLY NEEDED FOR OFWS IN KSA — MIGRANTE

Migrante International – Saudi Arabia chapter, is sounding the alarm on the massive crackdown happening in the Kingdom. The group cited the report of the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) that more than 1.5 million people have been arrested in Saudi Arabia as of August 2, as part of the Kingdom’s ongoing campaign against illegal residents.

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“While most of those arrested so far are Yemenis and Ethiopians, the Filipino community in the Kingdom is also affected by the said crackdown,” said Rod De Leon, Chairman, MIGRANTE-KSA. “Checkpoints were set-up in different parts of the cities of Riyadh, Jeddah and in the Eastern provinces. The Saudi’s Ministry of Labor is randomly inspecting different companies if they are employing illegal aliens,” he added.

The reported crackdown on illegal residents and workers comes after the amnesty program launched on March of last year and extended up to September 2017. OFWs however are saying that this is the first time they are seeing officials of the Labor Ministry themselves inspecting offices of companies and establishments.

“We are concerned that we have not heard anything from the Duterte Administration on their contingency plans to repatriate OFWs who will be affected by the crackdown,” explains Beng Medina, Chairwoman, GABRIELA-KSA. “The only things we have heard from the President so far are empty praises and commitments in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) while at the same time intensifying the deployment of cheap labor in vulnerable and exploitative working conditions abroad,” said Medina.

Migrante is pertaining to the recent speech of President Duterte during his last SONA where he expressed his admiration of the selflessness and courage of OFWs in enduring the hardships of living away from home to provide for their families. President Duterte also pledged his commitment to ensure the well-being of OFWs as its foremost foreign policy concern.

“This is the time for the President to put his money where his mouth is. Prior to the crackdown, more than a thousand OFWs were already seeking repatriation from the Philippine embassy and consulate offices in Riyadh, Jeddah and the Easter Provinces in Saudi Arabia. We fear that this number will multiply if the crackdown continues,” Rod De Leon concluded.

Beng Medina explained that the recent crackdown is also a part of a new policy called “Saudi First” in the job sectors. The said policy is the revised Nitaqat or Saudization program where only few companies can apply for new visas for expatriate employees that started from September of last year.

“With the record-high unemployment rate at present and the failure of the President to deliver on his campaign promise to end contractualization, many OFWs are afraid to return to the Philippines despite the risk of getting caught by Saudi authorities,” added Medina.

Both Migrante and Gabriela chapters in the Kingdom are calling for a comprehensive plan for massive repatriation and assistance programs upon the return of OFWs in their hometowns. The groups are dismayed by what the alleged “unclear disposition of the Philippine missions in Saudi Arabia in the midst of the current crackdown.”

There are more than a million OFWs working in Saudi Arabia, more than 700,000 of whom are domestic workers. OFW remittances from the Kingdom were registered at about USD$ 2.5 billion last year. The Philippines deploys more than 7,000 Filipinos daily to work in different countries abroad. One of the top destinations of OFWs is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. ###

 

For reference:

 

Mr. Rod De Leon

Chairman, MIGRANTE, KSA

+966543299063

 

Mrs. Beng Medina

Chairwoman, GABRIELA , KSA

+966508647230

 

A year after Kian delos Santos’ death, injustice and terror prevails under Duterte’s criminal lordship

One year on after the gruesome killing of Kian delos Santos, son of an OFW, the onslaught of bloodshed under Duterte’s psychopathic drug war continues to claim more lives, ravaging one poor community to another. Just ten days ago, Allan Rafael, a former OFW battling cancer was robbed, tortured and slaughtered at the hands of police officers manning Barbosa police station.

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Remorseless, Duterte showered favours to his agents of impunity. Among them is former Caloocan Chief Chito Bersaluna, now head of the entire Bulacan PNP. Bersaluna was back in the spotlight after the violent assault on striking NutriAsia workers and the illegal arrests of activists and media personnel. In parallel, Duterte appointed Caloocan Regional Trial Court judge Georgina Dumpit as Sandiganbayan associate justice after her dismissal of the murder cases against Caloocan cops involved in the slaying of teenagers Carl Arnaiz and Reynaldo “Kulot” De Guzman.

Duterte at the helm turned the Philippines into a vast furnace of suffering and torment for the majority of struggling Filipinos. Now it can be told that Duterte is the current supreme drug lord in the land, serving as chief protector of big drug criminals and smugglers like his kumpadre Peter Lim and his very own son Pulong Duterte. Under his fake war on drugs which targets the poor, the death toll has now exceeded 20,000 while the regime feigns blindness as tons and tons of illegal drugs worth billions are shipped into the country. The stench of death reeks enormously while a sea of innocent blood cries out to the heavens.

In the same manner, human rights’ defenders are beset with abductions, killings and fabricated charges. Among the latest victims was Butch Rosales, a Cebu-based Rise Up volunteer gunned down while on board a passenger jeepney.

Consolidating an even more vicious Fascist clique, Arroyo’s rise back to power and the alignment of the Marcoses in Sara Duterte’s Hugpong ushered the revival of the arrest orders against the Makabayan4 which were quashed just recently for insufficient evidence. On the night of August 11, Rowena and Oliver Rosales were arrested in Balagtas, Bulacan on trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. The couple were former officers of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE).

The range of Duterte’s tyrannical folly knows no geographical bounds. Lately, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) in collusion with the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) issued a blacklist order against Migrante’s Cordillera coordinator Caridad “Caring” Bachiller and 27 other rights activists who are mostly foreign nationals. Disregarding humanitarian considerations, immigration officers in the airport expelled 84 year-old Australian professor and human rights lawyer Gill Boehringer.

Migrante International reiterates its condemnation of all these Fascist attacks against the urban poor, OFW families and human rights defenders. We will exact justice for Kian and Allan Rafael as well as for the tens of thousands of victims of Duterte’s atrocious three-pronged war. Let it be known that history has never shown clemency to despotic tyrants. In due time, the emergent Duterte-Arroyo-Marcos fascist clique will face the full brunt of the people’s collective indignation.

Though faced with persecution, Migrante along with the rest of freedom-loving Filipinos will remain steadfast and defiant against repression and oppression. As long as the US-Duterte regime generates terror and impunity, we Filipinos will stand for justice and assert our democratic rights.

Stop the killings! Justice now!

Defend human rights defenders! Resist Crackdown!

Fight tyranny!

 

Migrante denounces inclusion of its leader and 27 rights defenders in the Bureau of Immigration blacklist order: Hands off Manang Caring!

August 11, 2018

Migrante International strongly condemns the Bureau of Immigration (BI) as it colludes with the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) in issuing a blacklist order against Caridad “Caring” Bachiller and 27 other rights activists. We likewise denounce BI as it carries out the deportation of Australian human rights lawyer and professor Gill Boehringer.

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As cited in the blacklist order, the request for their inclusion was submitted by NICA Director General Alex Paul Monteagudo based on their connection with the International League of People’s Struggle or ILPS. It must be noted that NICA is also among those agencies that orchestrated the fake DOJ terror list earlier this year.

This ridiculous blacklist, mistook all the listed persons as “foreign nationals” who planned to disrupt ASEAN 2017 with massive protest actions and conferences. NICA’s indolence magically turned Bachiller and several others into foreigners.   A genuine Filipino, Manang Caring as we fondly call her, has been playing a pivotal role in the campaign for migrants’ rights and strengthening of OFW organizations for almost two decades now.   Prior to her 6-year work as a domestic helper in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, she was a secondary school teacher in Abra.  In 1989 she worked as a domestic helper in Hongkong before coming home for good in 2014.

The plight of Filipino workers abroad drove Manang Caring to become a migrant activist.  Among her efforts include being an organizer of United Abrenians in Hongkong in 1990 and ATIS-HK (Abra Tinguian Ilocano Society – Hong Kong) in 1992.  The SUN, a Filipino publication awarded ATIS as the “Most Outstanding Filipino Organization in Hong Kong.”

Imbued with passion for service, her dedication paved the way for the establishment of the Abra OFW Center in 1997 and the launching in 2003 of DZPA-CMN’s Timek Ti ATIS, a weekly radio program where she served as the main radio anchor providing assistance to distressed OFWs live on-air. Her work also led to scholarship grants for indigent students in Abra.

Manang Caring’s sense of purpose sealed the creation of ATIS Abra Migrants Desk supported by the Diocese of Bangued in Abra in June 2015. Her undying commitment also won her the award Bayaning Pilipino sa Asya Pasipiko in 2003 and was Migrante Partylist’s 3rd nominee during the 2016 elections.

Facing government negligence and exploitation through Duterte’s labour export program, many migrants cast inspiration on social justice warriors like Manang Caring. Standing for their rights and that of their families in the Philippines, she has been a thorn in the side of the tyrannical Duterte regime that seeks to silence the voices of those who defend the oppressed and the marginalized.

By this act of proscription on migrants’ and human rights activists, the Duterte regime is clearly accentuating its destructive wickedness and its high preference to oppression and injustice.

We demand the immediate revocation of this blacklist order.  Now more than ever, we are calling on all freedom-loving migrants and Filipinos to defend their defenders and strongly oppose the tyrannical aggression of the US-Duterte regime.

 

Hands Off Manang Caring!

Hands Off Human Rights Defenders!

Activism is not a Crime!

Fight Duterte’s Tyranny!

Statement of Migrante Australia on Professor Gill Boehringer

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“The detention and imminent deportation of Professor Gill Boehringer to Australia proves yet again President Rodrigo Duterte’s intent to silence the voices of international human rights defenders for the Philippines”, said George Kotsakis, Chairperson of Migrante Australia.

Migrante Australia decries the heartless treatment accorded by the Philippine Bureau of Immigration (BI) to Professor Gill Boehringer, a staunch human rights defender of the Filipino people.

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Professor Boehringer flew in to Manila on the 7th of August to spend quality time with his Mindanao-based Filipina wife. He was detained upon arrival and was told “You have been blacklisted, so you are denied entry, and must return to your place of origin on the next flight”. Allegedly, he participated in an anti-APEC rally, in violation of an order prohibiting foreign visitors from participating in rallies in the Philippines.

Professor Boehringer has been in and out of the Philippines – as part of international election monitoring missions in 2007, 2010 and 2013 and of several international human rights fact-finding missions in recent times. He has stood with – in solidarity – with the Filipino people, in the struggle against human rights violations, injustice and exploitation.

At 84 years of age, he is as active and vocal and passionate as ever when speaking about the plight of the Lumad people in Mindanao, the effects of Australian mining on local communities in the Philippines, the relentless war on the poor and extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. Like Sister Patricia Fox, Professor Boehringer has the courage to speak out and the compassion to fight for the rights of poor Filipino people.

For this, he is now blacklisted, his deportation imminent. The Bureau of Immigration is all set to deport him despite medical advice that he is not fit to travel as he risks having deep vein thrombosis and he is currently suffering from cellulitis (swelling) on both legs.

Migrante Australia sees this heartless and gutless action to deny Professor Boehringer to be with his wife as no different from President Duterte’s treatment of migrant workers who are forced to be separated their families in order to secure a brighter future for them. “Blacklisting and deporting Professor Boehringer also means that he will no longer have the facility to visit and spend quality time with his Philippine-based wife whenever he wants to. Duterte is tearing another family apart! How cruel is that!” Kotsakis said.

Stop the deportation of Professor Gill Boehringer! Respect Professor Boehringer’s human rights! Remove Professor Boehringer’s name from the blacklist and allow him to remain in the Philippines!

Migrante Australia
9 August 2018

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Migrante Australia
P O Box 606, Laverton 3028, Australia
Contacts: George – 0413 041514(VIC); Mel – 0414 247154(WA); Reyvi – 0421 116776; Manny – 0404 105899(NSW)
Lina – 0407 841010(NSW); Berlin – 0499 303911(Albury-Wodonga); Steph – 0422 171969(VIC)