Overseas Filipino migrant groups, along with various allies abroad lit candles and offered tributes for fallen OFWs and health workers on the 18th of April, the second weekend of Global Kalampagan conducted by member organizations and chapters of Migrante International. Based on the latest figures released by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Saturday (18 April 2020), as much as 115 overseas Filipinos have already died due to COVID-19 and confirmed cases have gone up to 868. Up to 73 Filipino deaths were recorded in North America alone. Most of which are in the US, while Filipino communities in Europe have 33 COVID-19 fatalities.
“Looking at DFA figures, there are 42 countries with Filipino COVID-19 cases but the Duterte government through its DOLE-AKAP program only intends to provide financial aid to qualified OFWs from its list of priority countries and many OFWs are extremely upset that there are only 29 countries on that list. Filipinos are scattered in almost 200 countries around the world, why limit the coverage? How about OFWs under no-work-no-pay schemes? Their families back home are likewise being denied access to social amelioration. When it comes to state exactions, OFWs are always the number one priority on the Duterte regime’s list but in terms of aid and assistance, they are excluded. We detest the Duterte regime’s discriminatory policies against OFWs,” Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion argued.
Numerous calls and hashtags were written on banners and posters. Some of which are the following: #OFWAssistanceNow, #NasaanAngTulong, #ProtectFrontlinersPH, Bigas hindi dahas, Mass testing now, Tulong hindi kulong!
In a video clip of the candle lighting tribute for fallen OFWs and frontliners uploaded by Migrante Canada, their message stated, “We honour our frontliners who courageously and selflessly serve the people. We, Migrante Canada, give the highest salute for their commitment. We call 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. OFW assistance now!””
Meanwhile, Migrante members in Quebec, Australia and South Korea called for the immediate release of political prisoners in the Philippines who are victims of political persecution and trumped-up charges. The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology reported 9 cases of COVID-19 infections among detainees and 9 from its employees. Experts and rights advocates have warned that overcrowded Philippine jails could be a ticking bomb amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
The Ugnayang Pilipino sa Belgium (UPB) joined the call of other labour groups in Belgium demanding regularization for workers. Labour rights advocates say that workers, especially manual labourers, are at higher risk of contracting the virus.
Pressing the Australian government to take action on the plight of international students, Reyvi Marinas of Migrante Australia stated, “Australia has encouraged these students to come to Australia … but in times of need, these students’ contribution has been completely ignored and wilfully disregarded by this government. Many of these students have contributed immensely to the social, cultural and economic fabric of Australian society, many are taxpayers like the rest of Australian citizens and permanent residents in this country.” Filipinos from the Philippines Australia Solidarity Association also lit candles for frontliners. Their banner reads, “We light a candle to honor and pay tribute to the fallen frontliners serving selflessly and courageously saving people and fighting COVID19”
In Italy, members of Migrante Bologna and Rome decried DSWD’s order on entities to apply for a permit and pay the processing fee if they wish to conduct solicitations. The Nagkakaisang Pilipino sa Pransya likewise joined the Global Kalampagan and expressed grief over the seven (7) Filipino COVID-19 fatalities in France.
The Filipino Migrant Workers Union in Hongkong reiterated the points from the joint statement issued by 89 Filipino organizations in the Asia-Pacific region on Thursday, April 16. The groups highlighted the threats posed by COVID-19 on their health, jobs and income, visa status and the Duterte government’s negligence on their loved ones back home in the Philippines. Among the demands raised were the following: comprehensive plan as government response to COVID-1, uninterrupted services to overseas Filipinos, financial assistance to all distressed OFWs, moratorium on state exactions against OFWs, mass testing and an end to human rights violations and militarist actions.
ACFIL or Association of Concerned Filipinos in Hongkong likewise called on the Duterte government to give attention to OFWs who lost their jobs and those abandoned by their employers and agencies. Concurrently, Migrante Aotearoa urged Filipino communities in New Zealand to continue calling on the Duterte government to respond to the problems faced by OFWs.
In the US, Migrante USA is closely working with Nafcon or the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns to provide rights and welfare assistance to J-1 visa holders who were hit by terminations. The J-1 WORKER’S NETWORK was formed last week to solidify the collective action of Filipino J-1 visa holders in demanding aid and assistance from the Duterte government. Migrante International is set to hold the Global Kalampagan anew on the 24th and 25th of April as prelude to International Workers’ Day on the 1st of May.