Labor Day is also the day of Filipino migrant workers all over the world. This Labor Day 2014, migrant workers and their families cannot and do not expect significant changes and reforms from the US-BS Aquino government. In spite of his posturing and promises, BS Aquino did not do anything to decisively curb forced migration and, instead, aggravated the sorry plight of migrant workers by implementing an anti-migrant labor export policy.
Under the BS Aquino administration, the number of OFWs leaving the country increased from 2,500 daily in 2010 to 4,884 in 2013. Last year, the Philippines has breached the two million mark in deployment of OFWs for a year, the highest record in history. This is the result of massive unemployment, low wages, landlessness and privatization of social services under the BS Aquino regime.
The situation of OFWs has gone from worse to worst under the US-BS Aquino regime. It had been especially more gruelling for OFWs and their families since BS Aquino took office. Policy-wise, there are no indications that BS Aquino would instil much-needed reforms to curb forced migration and deviate from a policy of labor export. If anything, the Philippine economy’s dependence on labor outmigration and remittances has become unparalleled under the BS Aquino administration.
The recent visit of US Pres. Barrack Obama will not spell progress and relief for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families. Obama and the US government will make the Philippines its frontline of defense. The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) will make Filipinos vulnerable to attacks from enemies of the US, wherever they may be in the world – and BS Aquino, the ever-reliable puppet, is allowing it.
The railroading of BS Aquino’s charter change is also a present of a puppet to his master. Cha-cha, allowing 100% foreign ownership and control of land, businesses, industries and resources in the Philippines will make Filipinos squatters in our own homeland. Cha-cha will pave the way for the signing of the US-PH Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) which will further worsen forced migration and the labor export policy.
BS Aquino’s recourse is to intensify its labor export policy at the expense of the rights and welfare of Filipino workers. The labor export policy is nothing but a big business venture from which big businesses and corporations profit, with OFWs as their milking cows. Through remittances, the government earns exponentially without having to shell out much capital investment. Even funds for labor outmigration management through agencies such as the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) are directly sourced from OFWs or recruitment agencies and employers through various fees. Under BS Aquino, fees for requirements for OFWs increased, such as the Philhealth premium hike, NBI clearance hike, e-passport fee increase, mandatory Pag-Ibig contributions and other state exactions.
OFWs have borne witness to how insincere, insensitive and inept the BS Aquino government is in upholding the protection and welfare of OFWs: trafficking of our Filipino workers remain rampant and unresolved; abusive embassy officials are tolerated and condoned; the number of OFWs in distress has increased – stranded OFWs who seek shelter and repatriation, OFWs in jail and on death row who receive no legal assistance, undocumented OFWs who are criminalized but receive no protection. Instead, BS Aquino has showcased a more blatant and unapologetic labor export policy that continues to exploit OFWs’ cheap labor and remittances.
The BS Aquino government’s lack of welfare service and assistance to OFWs and the overall economic conditions of OFWs and their families amid widespread corruption and criminal neglect of the government are enough reasons for Filipino migrant workers to call for BS Aquino to step down from office.
To genuinely address the problem of forced migration, economic policies should focus on developing the national economy by advancing local industries, agriculture and basic services. Migrante International fully supports the call and struggle for national industrialization and genuine land reform as the ultimate solution to the problem of forced migration and to end the labor export program. ###