OFWs shatter PH government’s myth on migration as tool for development

At the back of the recently concluded intergovernmental adoption by the Philippines and 163 other UN member states of the Global Compact on Migration (GCM) which was held in Morocco, several OFW leaders and family members from different countries gathered on Wednesday for a year-end briefing on the state of Filipino migrants under Duterte.


Joanna Concepcion, executive director of Filipino Migrants Center (USA) pointed out that GCM propagates the false illusion of migration as a tool for development and that it will only intensify the Philippines’ labor export program with the instrument normalizing migration as an ordinary part of reality. “While GCM included the language of human rights in its contents, its non-binding nature does not really hold governments accountable in addressing the troubles faced by migrants,” Concepcion stated.

Aside from aggressiveness in entering new OFW labor markets like China and Russia, Arman Hernando of Migrante Philippines scored the Duterte administration for constantly peddling OFWs even in the absence of protective bilateral measures. Hernando likewise raised the alarm on the Duterte government’s barrage of state exactions like the mandatory insurance, TRAIN law and mandatory SSS coverage to serve as guarantees to foreign countries and investors on loans directed for his Build Build Build program.

In a study conducted by Migrante in October, the 3000 % increase in the amount of SSS exactions from OFWs would translate to Php144 Billion in the first year of implementation alone. “Since this is the biggest state exaction imposed on OFWs, Duterte is unmatched as the only president in the history of the Philippines’ labor export program who salivated after this humongous amount of money. Normalizing migration through the Philippines’ adoption of the Global Compact only emboldens the Duterte regime to introduce more state exactions,” Hernando stated.

This was seconded by Thea Reyes, wife of an OFW based in UAE. Between sobs, Reyes decried state exactions imposed by the Duterte government including the TRAIN law and was skeptical on Duterte’s Build Build Build to employ Filipino workers. “Permanente ba talaga nitong mapapauwi ang asawa ko? Parang hindi naman. Mga dayuhang kapitalista lang ang makikinabang,” Reyes asked as she longed for her husband this Christmas.

Families of Filipino migrants in the US and Japan are deploring the heightened criminalization and deportations of migrants and the Duterte government’s indifference on their plight. In a live video conference, Tabitha Ponciano, Portland coordinator of the Justice for Larry Campaign (US) and Lilia, the mother of Larry Nicolas, related the danger faced by Larry and many other Filipinos facing deportations despite their long-time legal and permanent residence in the US. Larry is one of the many Filipino victims detained by ICE or the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency of the United States. Duterte himself stated that he won’t help Filipinos facing immigration problems in the US. “If you get caught there and deported, I will not lift a finger,” Duterte warned.

Butch Pongos of Migrante Japan currently leads a campaign to stop the deportation of Loida Quindoy. Like Larry Nicolas, Quindoy was also a long-time resident of Japan whose visa got cancelled and is now threatened with deportation. According to Jayson Mendoza, Loida’s son, they are not receiving any substantial help from embassy officials. “Sa katunayan, gobyerno pa mismo ang gumagawa ng paraan para mapabilis ang kanilang deportation. Mga embassy officials pa ang nag-iikot para maghikayat sa mga Pilipino na magpa-deport na lang,” Mendoza lamented.

Pongos revealed that there are about more than 500 OFWs currently held in different immigrant detention centers in Japan.

In the Middle East, Filipinos are besieged by the socioeconomic crisis gripping countries like Saudi and Qatar which are now working on the nationalization of their labor sector. Noel Tolentino of Samahan ng mga Manggagawa Qatar (SAMMAQA-Qatar) revealed the widespread termination of workers, depression and non-payment of wages even among those employed by big private companies. Tolentino said, “kung sa Saudi may Saudization, sa Qatar naman ay may Qatarization. Ibinunga na rin ang krisis na ito ng pulitikal at ekonomikong hidwaan sa pagitan ng mga bansa sa Middle East.”

Nanay Celia, mother of Filipina on death row Mary Jane Veloso who just arrived from a GCM side-event in Morocco, burst into tears as she attested to her family’s chronic ordeal with the ill effects of migration starting from the physical abuse she endured as a household worker in Saudi, the maltreatment experienced overseas by her daughters Maritess and Darling to the 9-year incarceration of Mary Jane Veloso who is still on death row. “From generation to generation and from one regime to another, OFWs and their families have been victims of impunity and injustice,” Nanay Celia lamented.

These plights of OFWs likewise prompted Arman Hernando of Migrante Philippines to react on the impending job loss for 600 thousand Filipino workers next year due to the reenacted budget laid out by the Duterte government. “As the problems faced by OFWs are amplified by crises left and right, the Duterte regime could have increased its budget for legal assistance to Filipinos working overseas. Wala talagang matinong pagbabago sa mga patakaran ng pamahalaan,” Hernando concluded.

Closing the year-end briefing, Migrante International Chairperson Garry Martinez pointed to the horror stories related by OFWs substantiating that migration does not really lead to development but only creates tragic social costs to Filipino families and to the country as a whole.

Earlier’s “Year-End Briefing on the State of Filipino Migrants under Duterte” is one of Migrante International’s assemblies and activities leading to the International Migrants Day on December 18.