18 December 2022
Today, we migrant Filipinos mark International Migrants’ Day by declaring: Christmas this year brings no joy to us, largely because of the policies of the Bongbong Marcos government.
The state of the economy has worsened. The onion has become the Marcos government’s symbol, as the price of this vegetable, a staple in Filipino dishes, has reached PhP 300-400 (USD 5.40-7.20). In contrast, its price in the United Arab Emirates is only PhP 30 (USD 0.54). This is mind-boggling for Filipinos who know the country’s capacity for producing onions and other agricultural products. The increase in prices in the Philippines has forced us migrant Filipinos to send more remittances home — by working more, decreasing our already meager consumption, or reducing our savings.
Inflation is increasing as prices are skyrocketing, while wages and salaries remain stagnant. Despite government claims, unemployment remains widespread and increasing. We are not seeing the Marcos regime recognizing and taking action to address these issues. Marcos himself is busy trying to get international respectability with his seeming world tour. Worse, his government’s actions are making conditions worse for Filipino migrants and other sectors of society.
— The Marcos government continues to treat migrant Filipinos as milking cows. It continues to require an overseas employment certificate (OEC) from OFWs who are visiting their families in the country this Christmas season. The OEC is a prerequisite for paying mandatory fees such as Pag-Ibig, PhilHealth, SSS, mandatory insurance, processing of employment contract, among others. OFWs are calling for the scrapping of the OEC, yet Department of Migrant Workers Susan “Toots” Ople, previously showing off her activities in her new position, remains silent.
— What is even worse, payments exacted from OFWs will increase with the PhilHealth premium hike effective next month as well as the SSS premium hike.
— In Europe, the Department of Foreign Affairs released Circular 2694 that increases passport renewal and other consular services fees. This has increased the burden of the more than 800,000 migrant Filipinos in the continent. While Marcos sang praises for migrant Filipinos in the continent during his visit there, he does nothing to alleviate their suffering.
— While Marcos talked to leaders of maritime companies in his recent visit to Europe, he does not take action to help the country’s seamen who are complaining of very high training costs.
— Filipinos comprise a section of the 500,000 undocumented workers in Canada, and the Philippine government is doing nothing to protect them.
— Instead of responding to the immediate needs of migrant Filipinos, which our organizations are voicing out, the Marcos regime is prioritizing measures such as the Maharlika Investment Fund. The MWF’s supposed economic benefits are questionable, but it will surely provide government officials with new opportunities for corruption and plunder — to the detriment, of course, of migrants and all Filipinos.
The Marcos regime has shown that it plans to continue the government’s Labor Export Program and dependence on migrant Filipinos’ remittances. We condemn this direction, because what we Filipinos need are decent jobs at home, not abroad.
So today, International Migrants’ Day, we vow to continue fighting for migrants’ rights and interests, and to expand and strengthen our ranks for this purpose. We call on migrant Filipinos and all Filipinos to unite behind our rights and interests and speak out and take action for them.###