Duterte government to send back 10,000 OFWS to Hong Kong and Macau with waived rights — Migrante International

On Tuesday, 18 February, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo confirmed that the Interagency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease has mandated that returning OFWs need to sign a “written declaration” to state that “they know the risk of going back to their places of work”. Reports cite that 10,000 OFWs have been waiting for the resumption of flights back to Hong Kong. Just exactly as we feared, the government really wants to browbeat OFWs into relinquishing their right to claim government assistance in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak. This “written declaration” is nothing but the government’s euphemism for its issuance of waiver forms intended to transgress the rights and welfare of OFWs needing government protection. 

It is actually in times like these when government assistance and assurances are needed the most by OFWs. Instead, the government intends to abdicate its responsibility towards Filipino migrants. The Duterte government wants thousands of OFWs to leave with waived rights. If there’s an entity that needs to issue a “written declaration” to pledge assistance to OFWs, it should be no other than the Duterte government. From the outset, its corrupt labour export programme has been placing OFWs at risk. Migrante International reiterates its position that this waiver policy sets a dangerous precedent for the government to justify its neglect of OFWs in times of crisis or threats and to pass the blame on migrants for getting on with their deployment despite the risks.

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PHOTO: AFP / Anthony Wallace / File

This waiver is contradictory to what Malacañang said that “the government will always protect and provide support and assistance to all Filipinos whether here or abroad.” OFWs do not feel protected and supported that is why they are willing to leave. If the government is recognizing its responsibility, why require a waiver? Why not provide info kits on COVID-19 with emergency hotlines they can call? The government should also negotiate with airlines so that OFWs will no longer be required to pay additional fees for rebooking. 

OFWs are torn with the dilemma of either being stranded in Philippine poverty and unemployment or expose themselves to viral outbreaks just to bring food to the table for their families. The Duterte government should be ashamed of itself for all its failures to the Filipino people which force them to risk life and limb overseas just to escape the distressing conditions in Philippine society. Filipino migrants are willing to take the rist not only to get back to their work and other affairs but because they also believe that they will get better medical care and attention in Hong Kong and Macau as compared to the poor state of public health system in the Philippines. They do not feel safe here in the Philippines with the absence of advanced health care facilities to handle the emergence of infectious diseases. 

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After DFA announcement on the travel-ban exemption, Migrante International presses government to clarify what it meant by “certain procedural formalities”

Just a day after OFWs and Filipino migrants expressed their demand to the Duterte government for the ban to be lifted, the Department of Foreign Affairs through Undersecretary Brigido Dulay made an announcement that stranded Filipino migrants may now return to Hong Kong and Macau. While this unofficial announcement may be a cause for excitement for many stranded migrants – returning OFWs, permanent residents and students – who are eager to resume their work and get reunited with their families, Migrante International is asking the government to issue its official statement with clarification on what it meant by “certain procedural formalities” to avoid confusion and added burden to returning and newly deployed migrant workers and residents to Hong Kong and Macau.

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PHOTO: Pinoy Formosa

We warn the Duterte government that returning OFWs and migrants should never be required to sign waivers nor provide medical certificates or undergo any other additional process that will prolong their stay just to comply with these so-called “certain procedural formalities” mentioned by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Dulay. 

The government should not impose additional burdens on stranded migrants. OFWs deserve to obtain clearer information and details from the government regarding the travel ban exemption and migrants should not be obligated by any means to surrender their right to demand and receive government assistance. Migrante International will remain vigilant on how the Duterte government responds to the COVID-19 public health issue. 

 

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On the airline flight cancellations due to the COVID-19 travel ban

With the COVID-19 travel ban imposed by the Duterte government, thousands of OFWs and overseas resident visa-holders are seriously affected by airline cancellations which have been extended up to the 28th of March. Not only will this have a negative impact on the livelihood and income of OFWs but they are at risk of getting terminated from employment. This is likewise upsetting for overseas Filipino residents who are unable to get reunited with their families in Hong Kong. Migrante International reiterates its demand to the Duterte government to grant travel ban exemption to returning OFWs, residents, and students who will be travelling back to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan to resume their work, residency and academic studies. 

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PHOTO: Rappler

The Duterte government must provide significant support and compensation for stranded OFWs bound for Hong Kong, Macau, China and Taiwan who have lost income and employment. These Filipino migrants have already been ripped off by the government and by private recruitment agencies with tons of money during their application. It is unacceptable that they should only receive a minuscule amount from OWWA for all the inconvenience and trouble that they are going through. This is an extremely inadequate response by the Duterte government for those who are about to lose their jobs and income. 

OFWs are also expecting DFA to reach out to foreign authorities to facilitate visa extension for Filipino migrant workers and students stranded in the Philippines and in the cited countries. Migrante International chapters are already providing rights and welfare assistance to distressed OFWs and migrants hit by the travel ban and flight cancellations. 

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“Free Tacloban 5! Justice for Jay-ar Mercado!” — Migrante International

In the dead of the night on 7 February, the office of BAYAN-Eastern Visayas was illegally raided by elements of the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army. A journalist, one climate activist and 3 human rights workers were unjustly arrested based on trumped-up charges and fabricated evidence. Migrante International vehemently condemns these criminal acts of state terrorism committed by government troops against people’s defenders. We call for their immediate release and outright dismissal of the spurious charges. Those who led and perpetrated the illegal arrest must be held liable for this atrocity. 

The detainees now known as Tacloban 5 include Marielle Domequil of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Alexander Philip Abinguna of Katungod Eastern Visayas, Mira Legion of BAYAN Eastern Visayas, Frenchie Mae Cumpio of Eastern Vista and Marissa Cabaljao of People Surge along with her one-year-old baby. According to them, at about 1:00 am last friday, state troops violently barged into their home office, barking on everyone to come out and kneel on the ground. The military then rummaged around in every room and corner of the building without even reading any search  warrant. Only after more than an hour did the arresting crooks read the warrant signed by RTC 8 Judge Petilla. By then, firearms and IEDs were already illegally planted by government forces on the victims’ belongings. 

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A few weeks back, suspected agents of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Battalion murdered Jay-ar Mercado after his arrest on 25 January in Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro. Efforts by his loved ones and colleagues to recover his body were met with harassment and intimidation by the military. It is outrageously appalling that criminal brutalities are boldly being committed in the open by mercenaries of the Fascist US-Duterte regime. We demand that justice be served for Jay-ar and for all the victims of injustice and state violence. 

Through Executive Order 70 and the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) signed by President Duterte, all government functions are being geared towards silencing dissent and eliminating organized struggle against his Fascist reign of terror. At a time when government efforts and resources should be aimed at addressing public health concerns for polio and the 2019-NCoV outbreak through improvement of social services, the onslaught of repression and bloodshed is being unleashed as part of the government’s crackdown on people’s defenders, the media and against every critical voice that dare challenge the predominating system of oppression and despotic rule. 

Using NTF-ELCAC as their main vehicle of corruption, public money is being squandered and looted by the military at the expense of social services. Along with the Fascist US-Duterte regime, NTF-ELCAC must be abolished and its key officials sentenced to face the full brunt of justice. Filipino progressive organizations and their allies overseas must intensify active lobbying to call international attention to these atrocities and ensure that perpetrators will be placed behind bars to pay for their crimes. 

Migrante International calls on all its member chapters all over the world to denounce and launch protest actions against this spate of attacks on the democratic rights of the Filipino people and to all progressive groups that actively organize and raise legitimate grievances on behalf of the marginalized grassroots. The Filipino people can no longer expect peaceful and meaningful lives under this rotten and murderous regime. To its very core, the US-Duterte regime is possessed by all manner of vileness and monstrosity. Only by our enduring resistance shall the forces of doom be finally smitten to infernal ruin. 

Free Tacloban 5!

Free all political prisoners!

Justice for Jay-ar Mercado!

Junk EO70!

Abolish NTF-ELCAC!

Resist crackdown!

Stop the killings!

Stop the attacks!

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“Lack of coordination among PH officials for nCoV crisis to blame for confusion and misinformation” — Migrante International on the death of the 58 year old Dubai-based OFW

Migrante International is deeply saddened by the passing of the 58-year old Filipino household worker in Dubai on 2 February. According to UAE Health officials, the OFW, a single mother, succumbed to Pneumonia and was tested negative of Novel coronavirus (NCoV) on 1 February. 

We cannot help but be dismayed at the poor coordination being exhibited by government agencies in response to the 2019-nCov outbreak. We are strongly asking Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello to accept responsibility for his pronouncements and reveal how and from whom did he get his initial information on the cause of death of the 58-year old OFW.

As advocates of OFW welfare and health security, we are expecting to hear more from the Duterte government about its emergency response and crisis management particularly to the Filipino migrant sector. It is likewise imperative that the Duterte government take into account all distressed OFWs who are neglected in hospitals and for government agencies to urgently respond to their needs. 

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PHOTO: Al Jazeera

After DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello’s announcement on 6 February, wherein he confirmed that the death was due to 2019-NCoV, a UAE senior official denied the report as “baseless.” The lack of coordination between Philippine authorities and its labour attaches in host countries is abhorrent as this could lead to more confusion and misinformation at a time when the public is keeping close attention to the outbreak. 

Migrante calls on the Philippine government to extend assistance to the family of the deceased and ensure that further investigation is conducted to find out possible factors behind the reported medical condition and whether the Pneumonia contraction was work-related or not.

OFWs especially household workers are vulnerable to many health issues and are more likely to be enfeebled with serious medical conditions due to stress, overwork, sleep deprivation, starvation and maltreatment. Their anxieties over the economic difficulties faced by their families back home due to rising prices and inadequate social services compel them to endure pain and continue working overseas even through debilitating physical and mental ailments. 

In a country where the poor have no access to quality health services, accountability points to the Duterte regime’s negligence. The absence of a national pharmaceutical industry that could have been providing the public with cheap and highly effective medicines is compounded by the brain drain among health professionals who flock overseas due to low salaries and poor benefits from working in the Philippines. Such is the poor state of the Philippine health care system from which Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and President Duterte turns a blind eye on. 

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After positive test of 2019-nCoV infection on OFW sailor, Migrante International raises alarm on Duterte’s ineffective handling of public health emergency

With the confirmed report of an OFW seafarer as being the first Filipino to contract the dreaded 2019-Novel CoronaVirus, Migrante International is alarmed over the Duterte regime’s incompetence in handling the outbreak and the subsequent travel constraints which have now been causing a whole set of trouble to affected OFWs and Filipino travellers. This most recent case of 2019-nCoV infection on a Filipino seafarer illustrates that OFWs are more vulnerable to contracting the virus and that the Duterte government stands no chance in containing the outbreak under the current state of the country’s public health care and emergency response system. 

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PHOTO: RAPPLER.COM

About 25,000 OFWs are reportedly stranded and in danger of losing their jobs after the Duterte government imposed a travel ban preventing Filipinos from travelling to and fro from China including special administrative regions (SARs) like Hongkong and Macau. 

OFWs have already expressed fears of getting terminated from their jobs. The government’s reckless response after a period of denial has been causing frustration among Filipino permanent residents (from Macau and Hongkong) temporarily vacationing in the Philippines. It is now incumbent that health authorities look for ways to help them get reunited with their families. Estimates suggest that there could be about 20 thousand Filipinos that live and work in mainland China while more than a hundred thousand are in Hongkong and Macau. 

While Health Secretary Francisco Duque is in denial about the true state of the Philippine health care system, the Duterte regime halved the budget for the health department’s Epidemiology and Surveillance Program from P262.9 million in 2019 to only P115.5 million in 2020 according to economic think tank IBON. No wonder, about 20 countries have standing travel advisories on the Philippines with the reappearance of polio after 19 years. In addition, poor pay and government neglect continues to exacerbate brain drain among Filipino health care professionals.

No matter how much the Duterte regime denies its inefficient response to the 2019-nCoV onset and the poor state of health services in the Philippines, it cannot cover up the torrent of confusion and frustration among OFWs who are torn between staying precariously in the Philippines, fearing termination from their jobs or pursuing their deployment abroad at this time of crisis. 

At a time when addressing public health is of prime importance, the Duterte government preferred to prioritize Parlade’s military junket to Australia just to sow division and animosity among the Filipino community by discrediting progressive organizations like BAYAN and Migrante. Instead of sending out inutile government bootlickers and spin doctors who waste taxpayers’ money, the government should deploy humanitarian and rescue teams that would help OFWs seeking transfers to shelters or health facilities for quarantine and other services. 

Migrante International is likewise calling on the government to efficiently extend assistance to stranded Filipinos including those who require repatriation. We challenge the government to be honest and transparent in its measures by sharing informative data to the public and ensure advancement of prevention and awareness. Philippine overseas employment government bodies and health authorities should reach out to the infected Filipino seafarer and to his family. 

We are now appalled that Duterte’s previous racist and ludicrous remarks have now bred xenophobia, panic and misinformation. We call on the Filipino people in the Philippines and abroad to reject stigmatization and assert solidarity with the Chinese people at this time of crisis. Migrante International will continue to monitor developments on this public health issue and we will not allow the Duterte regime to exploit public fear to make life harder for OFWs and their families affected by the 2019-nCoV travel ban. 

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Migrante International on the Global Day of Action against US imperialist aggression on Iran (25 January 2020)

Dropping more bombs and waging the most number of wars more than any global power, US imperialism is indeed the world’s number one terrorist. Wherever there’s wide-scale death, destruction and bloodshed, capitalist war freaks from the military industrial complex are thrilled over the heaps of money they are earning from these US-instigated wars. US terror has destroyed millions of lives in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen for the sake of private profit as oil giants have long been salivating over Iran’s nationalized oil assets and rich gas reserves. 

The US threat of war against Iran further endangers the Middle East where about 2.4 Million Filipino migrants reside and work. Adding fuel to the fire is the Duterte regime’s outrageous enemy-tag on Iran and its pro-US default position at a time when even the big allies of the US are urging de-escalation and distancing themselves from this conflict. May we remind the Duterte regime that raising war as a national policy is not only unconstitutional but likewise reprehensible since it seeks harm against another sovereign country which has never exhibited any iota of animosity against our country.

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What’s even more ludicrous is that just after President Duterte pronounced his willingness to fall down and lick the feet of US imperialist interest, he’s now threatening to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) based on his lechery of serving as a travel agent for Bato dela Rosa — another buffoon whose major fixation in going to the US is to watch boxing matches. What if the US decides to reissue Bato’s visa? Will Duterte eat his own words? No matter how pompous his words are, we do not see Duterte fulfilling this threat for his fear of upsetting pro-US officials in the military. This only means that the Duterte regime has no interest in upholding Philippine sovereignty before its US imperialist master but is merely offering words of consolation to his troubled crony. 

The Duterte regime’s puppetry to US terrorist interest will not in any way benefit the Philippines. Instead, it will only imperil millions of Overseas Filipino Workers in the Middle East including Filipino seafarers who navigate the waters of the Persian Gulf. Worst, corrupt officials like Pabaon General Cimatu will make the most out of this conflict by putting his hands again on emergency funds intended for the welfare of Filipino workers who might need immediate evacuation should this crisis gets aggravated. 

Migrante International is one with all the peace-loving people of the world in detesting the US imperialist aggression and threats of war on Iran. We are one with the people of Iran in their desire to remain free from the clutches of US imperialist domination and preserve peace. Now is the time for action. Now is the time to assert for a just peace in the Middle East!   

No to US war on Iran!

End US occupation of Iraq!

US troops out now!

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