On the ASEAN consensus on the protection and promotion of rights of migrant workers

image from iPleaders Blog

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International today said that while the Duterte government hails the pending signing of the ASEAN consensus on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers as the “centerpiece” of the Philippine chairmanship, migrant workers from the Philippines and the ASEAN are yet to assess if the final document adequately protects migrant workers’ rights or provides redress mechanisms, especially for those in distress.

In 2007, the ASEAN made a leap to address the issues of migrant workers by adopting the ASEAN Declaration of the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers. However, the drafting of the instrument had come to an impasse since 2009 after members of the committee, specifically migrant-sending countries, failed to agree with provisions proposed by committee members and migrant-sending countries like the Philippines and Indonesia. The dispute involves whether the instrument will be legally-binding, will protect undocumented or irregular migrant workers, will cover migrants’ family members and will cover migrant workers who are not from ASEAN member states.

If the consensus still does not address these core issues, then President Duterte just signed a “landmark” spoiler for migrants rights that, ironically, the Philippines has been contesting for 10 years now.

There is also a lack of clarity, consultative process and scarcity in information-sharing with relevant stakeholders, including migrant workers themselves. Proposed changes to the draft instrument, to exclude families, undocumented migrant workers and to remove legally-binding clause of the draft, would have a significantly negative impact on migrant workers. If Duterte brokered the signing of such a consensus, then he cannot boast of having signed a “centerpiece” agreement for ASEAN migrant workers.

Why legally-binding?

With the lack of comprehensive legislative protection of migrant workers in destination countries where most violations happen, it is important in the continuing battle for protection of migrant workers that the consensus on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers is binding. If the implementation is optional for member states, migrant workers will not be able to maximize its benefits wherever they may work or migrate, however strong the principles and provisions may be.

The concept of ‘non-interference’ has been effectively instituted in ASEAN through the ASEAN Charter and had been used consistently as a method to avoid state human rights obligations in deference to the need to ‘respect state sovereignty’. The emphasis on ‘regional particularities’, principles of ‘sovereignty’ and ‘non-interference’ allowed the perpetuation of human rights violations in deference to the goals of regional and inter-governmental collaboration and economic development. The consensus on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers should be legally-binding and obligate ASEAN member states to fully commit to the protection and promotion the rights of all migrant workers.

There is also a need for urgent review of existing legislation and national laws with the aim to harmonize such with a legally-binding consensus. Likewise, existing legislation and national laws that would contradict or be inconsistent with the legally-binding consensus should be repealed. These efforts should also include destination countries outside of the ASEAN if the source countries of migrant workers are in ASEAN in order to better ensure the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers.

Why include undocumented migrant workers?

The 2007 draft instrument related only to documented migrant workers so the framework does not correspond with the reality of migration, particularly in the Mekong region where the majority of migrant workers are living and working abroad with undocumented status.

 It is also important to note that undocumented migrant workers are not necessarily only those who entered a destination country illegally. They may include those who lose status when their work permits were not renewed, they leave their employer even if due to abusive and exploitative conditions, and, those whose employers cancelled their work permits.

Most countries in ASEAN and Asia Pacific do not have specific legislations pertaining to the protection of undocumented migrant workers and mostly deny the growing magnitude of this problem. The solution by some states for undocumented persons is typically deportation. Some corrupt immigration officers may also trade detainees to traffickers to be sent to work on fishing boats and other work. Migrant workers who are arrested are charged for working without appropriate permits and violating visa requirements or being involved in prostitution. There are no screening processes for identifying trafficked victims from undocumented migrant workers.

However, sadly, embassies and consulate offices that should serve as sanctuaries and support mechanisms for undocumented workers have been found lacking. In the case of the Philippine government, for instance, the proposal of establishing a diplomatic outpost in Sabah has been denied, mainly because it would risk the country’s diplomatic ties with migrant-receiving Malaysia.

Why include families of migrant workers?

There are often social costs to the families of migrant workers, including family dislocation with children growing up without a parent or parents. When migrant workers leave their children behind, the children are more likely to suffer academically, have emotional problems, suffer from substance abuse, be forced into the labor force at an early age, and suffer physical or sexual abuse.

Women typically bear the major responsibility for care of the family. Therefore, measures to fulfill women migrant workers’ rights must improve the treatment of women migrant workers as workers, and must minimize the hurdles women migrant workers face in maintaining their family and cultural obligations.

Furthermore, the UN Convention on Migrant Workers recognizes family as the fundamental group unit of society. As such, family unification is a major goal of the Convention. States Parties are directed to “take appropriate measures to ensure the protection of the unity of the families of migrant workers.” This provision benefits not just women who are “left behind” by their migrant worker husbands, but it benefits migrant workers who wish for their families and children to join them. Where children are able to accompany the parent or parents when they migrate for work, there are also protections needed in host countries, such as ensuring that children of migrant workers have access to social security, health care, education and other basic social services.

Family reunification/reintegration in countries of destination is the second-best option as forced migration continues to force families apart. The best option is still for sending countries to come up with alternatives to migration, such as job generation, land reform and the provision of sufficient basic social services.

 

There is also a need for the creation of an ASEAN-level body, structure, commission, or possibly even a tribunal, to address migrant-related violations and concerns. This formation may be a consultative body which would specifically focus on migrant workers, with the powers to investigate and recommend appropriate actions to member states; or in the form of an ASEAN-level tribunal or court dedicated solely, with judicial functions, to facilitate trials of and impose sanctions on violators; or reprimand, if need be, governments that would violate the consensus.

Because there is a lack of support mechanisms in both sending and receiving countries, the tendency is always to deport or repatriate victims of abuse and exploitation resulting in the denial of justice and non-persecution of perpetrators. This attitude of “exporting the problem” limits and hinders migrant workers’, for instance victims of rape and/or sexual harassment, access to justice.

Migrante International believes that national, regional and international migration policy must take place within a human rights framework that protects, promotes and fulfills the rights of migrant workers. Human rights standards in general, as well as those concerning migrants, have been codified into international human rights law, through treaties and conventions, as well as incorporated into domestic law. These have been the foundation of many state efforts in the ASEAN region to realize the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of migrants. While there has been progress in the past decades, the achievements have been minimal and, considering the present condition of migrant workers, insufficient.

Also, while there have been efforts within ASEAN member states to defend rights of migrant workers, they have not necessarily led to greater protection and instead even gone against migrants’ rights. For instance, some have resulted in the criminalization of victims, such as of undocumented/irregular workers and trafficked migrant workers. Crackdowns on work places, tightening up on movement, and border controls may have effectively restricted the right of nationals to migrate. The creation of the impression that there are sufficient mechanisms and legal responses to migrants in crisis may have also encouraged migration, resulting in the increasing number of distressed migrant workers unaided upon the onset of crises because of a lack of national and regional level mechanisms of protection.

Migrante International reiterates that the most basic right of migrant workers is to be able to have decent, regular work and livelihood at home without having to seek these in other countries under likely very difficult conditions. This draws attention to how recommendations need to first of all be grounded in a solid understanding of the root causes of forced migration which create the basic conditions for rights violations. Addressing these root causes and implementing policies that prevent forced migration are vital and should proceed astride more immediate efforts to advance migrant workers’ rights.

Another key point is the recognition of the right of migrant workers to organize among themselves. The united action of migrant workers, their families and advocates, to provide venues for redress when there are none is a significant step in the promotion and protection of the rights of migrant workers in the ASEAN. ###

 

#SONA2017: OFWs protest Duterte’s fascism and ‘broken vows’ in People’s SONA

On Pres. Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA), global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International led protests worldwide condemning the regime’s martial law and empty promises.

“Today’s protests are happening at a time when the nation is once again engulfed in a new dark era, that of the US-Duterte regime’s militarist authoritarian rule amid worsening social injustices. We are gathered here today with other sectors because OFWs and families stand against Duterte’s martial law and all-out war against the people. We lend our voices against the government’s political suppression and repression of its critics and perceived enemies. We vow to fight any and all forms of curtailment of our hard-fought freedoms and civil liberties,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante International spokesperson.

Hernando said that martial law in Mindanao has resulted in countless deaths, destruction and numerous human rights abuses brought on by the military’s indiscriminate bombings and air strikes.  It has also been used by state forces to carry out harassment, extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and the filing of trumped-up charges against activists, progressives and civil libertarians, not only in Mindanao but in Visayas and Luzon.

“The extension of martial law in Mindanao represents a clear and present threat of an expansion of military rule not only in Mindanao but a military takeover of the government. Such a move has paved the way for a possible declaration of martial law nationwide,” he said.

“History has proven that martial law cannot and will not pave the way to peace and stability. Instead, most vulnerable to human rights and violations are the Filipino people — unionists who strike for better wages, farmers and national minorities who struggle for land, the poor who fight for better services and against state repression. The extension of martial law in Mindanao has set the stage for the large-scale violation of human rights by the AFP and other state forces.”

Hernando said that today’s SONA protests around the world is also testament to overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs’) continuing clamor for genuine change.

Joining the Migrante contingent in the People’s SONA in Manila are returned OFWs and families of stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia; the family of Mary Jane Veloso; and, the family of Teresa Quedding, an OFW victim of mysterious death whose remains arrived from Kuwait without internal organs and with apparent signs of torture and maltreatment.

Migrante also raised OFWs’ strong opposition to fees and tax impositions brought on by the new OFW ID, or the iDOLE, and the Bureau of Customs’ Memorandum Order 04-2017 on balikbayan boxes which will be effective on August 1.

“After a year of Duterte’s presidency, it has become evident that no genuine change awaits OFWs and their families. Duterte vowed to end forced migration and the policy of labor export but continues to cater only to the ruling elite, big business and foreign interests. Joblessness, contractualization, landlessness, lack of basic social services and other social injustices are not being addressed. These are the root causes of forced migration, the reasons why millions of our OFWs are compelled to leave their families just to survive. These are also the root causes of the ongoing armed conflict, that only fundamental societal change can resolve,” Hernando said.

Like in the Marcos era, he said, Duterte’s martial law and all-out war against the people will only further force Filipinos to seek security and refuge abroad.

“History has also proven that martial law failed to address the root causes of the CPP-NPA-NDF armed rebellion as well as the Moro people’s struggle for the right to self-determination. Martial law extension in Mindanao, and its possible expansion nationwide, is a momentous stumbling block to the Filipino people’s aspiration and commitment to a just and lasting peace,” Hernando said.

Migrante also condemned the apparent US-hand not only in the Marawi conflict but in moves to extend martial law in Mindanao and expand it nationwide.

“Filipinos here and abroad resist and reject the US’ involvement in the Marawi conflict and in Philippine affairs. Our nation should not fall prey to the US ploy of wreaking terror and division to advance their economic and political interests in the country and in the region, similar to what they are waging in Syria, Venezuela and other countries where people are asserting their independence,” Hernando said.

“Nothing good ever comes out of US interventionist wars. The Filipino people will not allow Pres. Duterte to fall into the same trap that happened in Syria, Libya and elsewhere. In line with the US pivot to Asia, the US-hand in the Marawi conflict and the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, enabled by US puppets in the Duterte government, has already been exposed. Migrante International calls for the lifting of martial law and the immediate pull out of US troops from Philippine soil.”

“We call on all Filipinos around the world to rise against state fascism. Only through collective action and struggle can the Filipino people ultimately topple the rotten, corrupt system that has produced one tyrant leader after another,” Hernando said. ###

“Thanks, but no thanks”, OFWs slam new OFW ID

Flaunted by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as President Duterte’s “best gift” to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the OFW ID or the iDOLE is now receiving flak from OFWs and different sectors.

According to Arman Hernando, Migrante International spokesperson, the iDOLE is a haphazard attempt to impress and appease OFWs in time for the president’s next State of the Nation Address (SONA). “Unfortunately, it has been exposed as yet another money-making scheme as quickly as it was hastily launched by the government.”

“How could it be the ‘best gift’ when even the DOLE is clueless on its relevance? There is as yet no implementing guidelines on how it is supposed to function. It will not even benefit all OFWs and only new hires. Worse, the DOLE claims that it will be free of charge, to replace the useless scrap of paper that is the OEC (overseas employment certificate), but it turns out to be seven times more expensive at Php701. Employers are expected to pay for the iDOLE but since when has this stopped them from passing on the burden to recruitment agencies and, consequently, to OFWs?” Hernando said.

“Thanks, but no thanks, President Duterte. Hindi po ito regalo kundi dagdag-perwisyo para sa mga OFW.”

 Hernando said that the government would do well to cease from its “big talk” and instead genuinely address issues that would stop forced migration and put an end to the policy of labor export.

Migrante described Duterte’s first year in office as “a year of big talk, band-aids and business-as-usual” for OFWs and their families.

“For all his posturing and promises, Duterte has so far done nothing substantial to curb forced migration, something that he promised to make ‘optional and not a necessity’ when he assumed office. Instead, what we have seen thus far is a rehash of the same neoliberal policy of labor export when it comes to peddling Filipinos’ cheap and docile labor to the global market. Talk is cheap, band-aids are temporary and business-as-usual means a never-ending and chronic cycle for OFWs and their families. We do not wish to hear more of the same from President Duterte in his SONA,” he said.

Migrante International will join the BAYAN-led contingent in the upcoming People’s SONA here and abroad on July 24. ###

OFWs march vs. modern-day slavery, legacies of Martial Law on Bonifacio Day

 

nov30-2016

“If Bonifacio were alive today, he would be at the forefront of the continuing struggle of migrants and workers against modern-day slavery and imperialist exploitation, and the Duterte administration’s betrayal of the Filipino people by allowing the burial of the late dictator Marcos at the Libingan ng mg Bayani.”

This was the statement of Migrante International as it led overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families in the multi-sectoral rally today commemorating the 153rd birth anniversary of Filipino hero Andres Bonifacio.

According to Mic Catuira, Migrante International deputy secretary-general, OFWs and their families belong to the exploited and oppressed sectors. “We are workers and farmers, students and professionals, who were forced to leave the country and be separated from our families out of desperation and poverty, because of joblessness, landlessness and measly wages and lack of social services, because of the growing divide between the rich and the poor.”

Like Bonifacio, Catuira said, Filipino migrants and their families are fully aware of foreign and private exploitation of cheap labor and the effects of imperialist neoliberal attacks on workers of the world. “We feel the effects of the present global economic crisis locally through its effect on our families. Abroad, OFWs have become more vulnerable to all sorts of abuses and violations, such as racism, discrimination, xenophobia in our workplaces and in our host societies.”

Catuira said that the Duterte government’s persistence of implementing the four-decade long labor export policy, which started during Marcos’ time, belies his earlier pronouncements of treating OFWs’ plight as an urgent national priority.

“Instead of addressing the root causes of forced migration through genuine land reform and national industrialization, Duterte had further opened up the national economy to abuse and exploitation of our cheap labor by foreign capital and business interests fueled by the greed for OFW remittances. For as long as the labor export policy is in force, there can be no genuine protection for our OFWs and their families. Government policies and programs, through the continuance of the labor export policy, will not serve to protect and uphold the rights and welfare of OFWs but will further perpetrate modern-day slavery,” he said.

Catuira also called on all OFWs and families all over the world to continue calling for an end to the Duterte-Marcos alliance and all legacies of Martial Law.

“We are here today to affirm our commitment to carry on Bonifacio’s struggle for nationalism and democracy, against tyranny and fascist rule. We call on Pres. Duterte to do away with Marcosian actions and tactics. He must prove himself still worthy of the people’s trust and confidence by holding accountable all human rights violators in the military, police and in government. He must cease from carrying on the legacies of Martial Law by releasing the more than 400 political prisoners. He must put a stop to Oplan Bayanihan that continues to terrorize communities nationwide despite the ongoing unilateral reciprocal ceasefire declarations by the AFP and the New People’s Army,” Catuira said.

The migrant leader called on all freedom-loving OFWs and families to continue Bonifacio’s revolution.

“The struggle of OFWs and their families is not isolated from the struggle of other exploited and oppressed sectors. The problem of forced migration is deeply rooted in the fundamental problems of Philippine society. Our struggle for dignity, rights and welfare, against government neglect and against forced migration plays a very important role in the struggle for genuine freedom and national democracy. The only solution to the problems of the Filipino migrant sector and their families is through system change so that families would not have to separated and broken apart in order to survive. ###

#MarcosNoHero protests go global: OFWs and families call on Pres. Duterte to end alliance with Marcoses

taksil-hindi-bayaniDifferent time zones, weather conditions and thousands and thousands of miles are not stopping Filipinos worldwide from sending out their statements of solidarity and rage, launching mass actions, protest activities and expressing their outrage through social media.

Migrante chapters and Filipino communities in Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Canada, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and United States are joining today’s Global Action Day against the hero’s burial of former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

For overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), immigrants and their families here and abroad, a hero Marcos is not. The real heroes are those who fought the Marcos dictatorship, including those who have been forced to flee abroad during the dark days of the dictatorship. The real heroes are those who continue to seek justice, those who have been tortured, jailed, killed and disappeared during Martial Law.

The real heroes are our “bagong bayani” who continue to bear the brunt of Marcos’ labor export policy that continues to exploit our OFWs’ cheap labor, separate us from our loved ones and place us in dire and dangerous conditions.

Four decades ago, Marcos employed a labor export policy to cushion the blows of a weakened economy through the influx of foreign remittances. Four decades ago, Marcos used the labor export policy to quell our people’s dissent due to widespread unemployment, landlessness, growing poverty, massive corruption and dismal social services. Four decades have passed, the labor export policy has gone bankrupt and has done nothing but aggravate the same economic, political and social ills that are the root causes of forced migration.

Having treacherously buried Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani is an insult to our “bagong bayani” who continue to fight and struggle for a society devoid of corruption, tyranny, injustice, imperialist plunder, foreign debt, political turmoil and widespread poverty – factors that continue to drive us away from our homeland for the need to survive.

Migrante International holds President Duterte accountable for this audacious revision of history and blatant disregard of the Filipino people’s collective outrage. His alliance with the Marcoses is a poisonous pact that can and will isolate him from the people, especially from our OFWs and their families for whom he has promised a “better Philippines”. Continuing this poisonous pact means that he subscribes to and accepts Marcos’ governance of dictatorship, puppetry and state fascism.

Migrante International calls on Pres. Duterte to put an end to his alliance with the Marcoses. We call on the president to make good his promise to respect human rights, work for a just peace that would put an end political turmoil and employ an independent foreign policy that shuns imperialist neoliberal dictates. This is what a “better Philippines” means for OFWs and our families.

Filipinos, wherever we are in the world, will never allow the return of the Marcoses to power, nor will we tolerate any moves from the Duterte administration to bring us back to the dark days of Martial Law. Never again. ###

(Photo credits to Migrante International)

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Migrante International Chairperson Garry Martinez in London, UK

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Meme made by OFWs in Hong Kong who will hold their own protest action there later today.

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Filipinos and international supporters in The Hague, Netherlands.

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Filipinos brave the cold weather in Rome, Italy.

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Filipinos and international supporters at the Philippine Embassy in the United Kingdom.

“BSA, how many Lumads have you killed today?”

M12006283_10153544790844326_5252353150592625999_nigrante International adds its voice to the outrage and public furor against Pres. Aquino’s nonchalance and “double-speak” amidst the outrage and public furor on the spate of extrajudicial killings targeting Lumads in Mindanao.

In a conference with journalists and editors of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the president was quoted saying that “there is no government policy to kill Lumads”, in light of allegations that the military and AFP-baked paramilitary groups were involved in the killings. In the same breath he said that “(T)here is a campaign to go after everybody who commits crimes, regardless of who they are”.

Migrante International finds Pres. Aquino’s statements atrocious, blatantly unsympathetic and dangerously double-edged. There is a very obvious Marcosian campaign by the government to annihilate Lumads and the people of Mindanao who have been very vocal against rampant military abuses and government-backed large-scale mining operations that have caused the massive displacement of tribal communities from their ancestral domains.

According to Karapatan, at least nine Lumads and an advocate of indigenous people’s rights were killed between August to September 9, 2015. On August 18, AFP soldiers allegedly massacred a Lumad family, among them children aged 13 and 17, in Bukidnon. Since May, hundreds of Lumads have taken refuge in a church’s evacuation camp in Davao City after the military occupied and ransacked their communities as part of an ongoing offensive against the New People’s Army (NPA).

The latest most gruesome atrocity was the killing of Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo and ALCADEV Lumad school Executive Director Emerito Samarca on September 1. They were killed by the AFP-backed Magahat/Bagani/Marcos Bocales paramilitary group in broad daylight, allegedly under the command of the 36th IBPA, the 75th IBPA and 1st Special Forces Battalion.

Lumad schools all over Mindanao have long been under attack. Based on reports submitted by alternative school institutions and indigenous peoples organizations to the United Nations and other rights groups, perpetrators are elements of the AFP and its mercenaries such as the CAFGU and ALAMARA. The AFP, some local government officials and the Aquino government have vilified these schools as alleged training grounds of the NPA. As a result, at least 3,000 students and teachers have been displaced and forced to stop operations since the first quarter of 2015. The military’s attack on ALCADEV school in Han-ayan, Lianga, Surigao del Sur is by far the most vicious and evil attack on Lumad schools.

President Aquino cannot deny these killings, or simply brush them off and pretend that they did not happen. Our Lumad brothers and sisters, Lumad children, are dying by the day while the perpetrators continue to enjoy impunity. Aquino’s double-speak can only mean that the killings will continue. There is an apparent undeclared “open season” on Lumads and the Aquino government is hell-bent on justifying human rights violations on grounds that military’s targets are criminals or “enemies of the state”.

Migrante International calls on all freedom-loving Filipinos all over the world to stand for Lumads. We call for international solidarity to strongly call for a stop to the killings and an end to the state policy that gives these merciless hunters license to kill.

Migrante International, together with all its chapters, members, networks and advocates around the world, stands with the Lumads. An injustice against the Lumads is an injustice against the Filipino people. #StopLumadKillings #EndImpunity

#SONA2015 Number of OFWs leaving daily rose from 2,500 in 2009 to 6,092 in 2015

11796205_10153443136224788_5601287287515632249_nGlobal alliance of overseas Filipino workers belied Pres. Aquino’s claim in his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) that the number of OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) have been reduced due to improved local job generation.

In its SUMA (Summing-Up of the State of Migrants Under Aquino 2010-2015), Migrante stated that under the Aquino administration, the number of OFWs leaving the country increased due to chronic joblessness and low wages – from 2,500 daily before Aquino assumed office in 2009, 4,018 in 2010, to 6,092 daily by early 2015 (per Department of Labor and Employment data).

 

Annual Report of OFW Deployment, POEA

Year Number of OFWs deployed Average per day
2010 1,470,826 4,018
2011 1,687,831 4,624
2012 1,802,031 4,937
2013 1,836,345 5,031
2014 1,844,710 5,054
2015 ———– 6,092 (DOLE)

 

Further, it said that POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration) data showed that the Aquino government has breached the two-million mark in OFW deployment processing in 2013, the highest record in the history of Philippine labor export.

Migrante International also said that the number of OFWs deployed far outpaced the jobs generated domestically. According to a Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) report, the number of locally employed Filipinos was only 1.02 million in 2014, or an average of 2,805 additional employed in the country daily.

The group said that while POEA data showed that there had indeed been a slight decrease in the OFW deployment, it was only in the fourth quarter of 2014. According to POEA data, 1.7 million OFWs were deployed during the last quarter of 2014, or 4,508 deployed daily. Deployment data nine months prior, however, pegged the number of OFWs leaving daily at 5,200.

In the past years, there had been a steady increase in the number of new hires and re-hires of land-based and sea-based OFWs deployed. POEA data clearly shows that the number of land-based workers deployed increased by 34.52%, or by 32.93% for new-hires and 35.26% for re-hires. For seafarers, there was also an 11.11%  increase in deployment from 2009 to 2013 (see POEA table below).  Combined with the growing number of irregular OFWs who leave the country through backdoor means, even the overall government figure of deployment does not in any way support Aquino’s claim that migration has considerably lessened during his presidency.

poea deployment 2009-2013

In fact, OFW deployment has picked up considerably despite ongoing crises in host countries – to date, policies such as the Nitaqat or Saudization, stricter immigration policies and criminalization and deportation of millions of undocumented OFWs. “If the government is attributing a so-called “reverse migration” due to these factors, then it is right on spot. Since 2010, thousands upon thousands of OFWs in distress have been deported or forcibly repatriated back to the country due to civil unrests, calamities, economic instabilities and other similar factors in migrant-receiving countries,” said Sol Pillas, Migrante International secretary-general.

Pillas said that with the continuous repatriation of distressed OFWs from Saudi, Egypt, Syria and Libya, and the deportation of undocumented OFWs in Europe, Canada and the United States, then a “reverse migration” phenomenon could further be expected in the coming months.

“But to attribute a “reverse migration” due to so-called “inclusive growth” is outright deceitful and misleading. With the record-high unemployment rate and the lack of a comprehensive and sustainable reintegration program for returning OFWs, a so-called “reverse migration” will not be tantamount to the Aquino’s claim that OFWs have been opting to come home for good. Filipinos will not be stopped from being forced to leave the country in search for “greener pastures” abroad. And so the cycle continues,” she said.

Migrante International maintained that the number of OFWs has increased significantly since Aquino took office. By 2012, at least one-fourth of the country’s labor force has gone abroad to find work. According to DOLE, there are now 12 million OFWs abroad. Migrante International pegs the number of overseas Filipinos between 12 to 15 million, to include undocumented OFWs. ###