#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. ###

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Migrante renews call for scrapping of OWWA Omnibus Policies

OOPMigrante Sectoral Partylist renewed calls for the scrapping of the OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) Omnibus Policies (OOP) that effectively made the $25 OWWA contributions mandatory per contract, revoked lifetime memberships of Filipino migrants and families and eroded OWWA’s major welfare programs.

The group reiterated its call in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling, dated January 21, 2015, directing the Pasay City Regional Trial Court to promptly resolve a petition that sought to declare the OOP as unconstitutional.

The OOP or OWWA Resolution No.038 was implemented on September 19, 2003. The OOP stipulated the renewal of OWWA membership per contract. Before the OOP, a one-time contribution of the $25 membership fee meant a lifetime membership for OFWs. When the OOP was implemented, failure to pay and renew the $25 mandatory contribution per contract (usually every two years) meant that an OFW is not entitled to programs and welfare services by the OWWA.

According to Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante Sectoral Partylist chairperson, because of the renewal clause in the OOP, OWWA’s services have since discriminated against irregular or undocumented OFWs, which constitute majority of OFWs in distress.

Bragas-Regalado also said that the OOP streamlined benefits and services provided by OWWA to its members. “With the implementation of the OOP, some of the major programs and services were phased out, among them, the General Financial Assistance program, Medicare, Legal Assistance Program and Repatriation program.”

The OOP has since been declared anti-migrant and a money-making scheme. “Support mechanisms should be put in place to accommodate welfare needs of OFWs and their families, regardless of status. This is the OWWA’s constitutional mandate. Even OFWs who were terminated, have become undocumented or those who have decided to come home for good should be entitled to benefits. According to law, the OWWA should give total coverage to all Filipino migrant workers. We call on the Pasay RTC to uphold the law and protect the rights and welfare of OFWs and families.”

Full audit of OWWA funds

Bragas-Regalado added that their group has also long been calling for a “full audit” and an “immediate and independent investigation” of OWWA funds in light of many unresolved issues of abuse, misuse and corruption.

In 2011, a report by the Commission on Audit (COA) revealed that OWWA’s overseas officers failed to remit more than P21 million in collections to OWWA’s Land Bank-Manila dollar account during the last ten years. “The Land Bank also charges a 1% management fee per annual deposits made by the OWWA. This contradicts reason – money deposited to the bank should be earning interest and not the other way around. Where does the money go?”

In 2006, then AFP Chief of Staff Roy Cimatu botched a rescue mission funded by OWWA during the Lebanon crisis. The OWWA released P150 million for the repatriation of OFWs but out of the 6,000 OFWs there, only 1,000 were repatriated by Cimatu. The incident prompted several Senate hearings and it was then discovered that P6.8 billion of OWWA funds were transferred to the Development Bank of the Philippines and Landbank of the Philippines (P3.4 billion each) without any consultations with the OFW sector.

Former solicitor general Atty. Frank Chavez also filed a case at the DOJ against former president Gloria Arroyo for alleged misuse, re-channel and charge to OWWA funds various projects that had nothing to do with OFWs, among them the supposed evacuation of Filipinos from Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan in 2003. “(Since) no actual evacuation of Filipino took place, (but) where did the money go?”

“These cases remain unresolved and unless a full audit takes place OFWs have reason to believe that OWWA funds are not trickling down to much-needed service to OFWs,” Bragas-Regalado said. ###

OFW group launches “Crisis Hotline” for OFWs in Libya, Middle East-North Africa

migrante-libya

OFWs in Libya when the crisis there first erupted in 2011.

Migrante International, worldwide alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), today launched a “Crisis Hotline” for stranded Filipinos in Libya and other conflict-ridden areas in the Middle East and North Africa.

The “Crisis Hotline” can be reached through mobile number 0932-3990231 or email address menacrisiscenter.migrante@gmail.com. Messages may also be sent though Migrante International’s website, http://migranteinternational.org where an online complaint form may be accessed.

According to Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez, they have set up the hotline because they continue to receive messages of distress and emergency from OFWs and their families who up to this day remain trapped in Libya and await urgent evacuation. All distress calls they receive will immediately be forwarded to the Department of Affairs (DFA) for immediate attention.

“Like before, the Philippine government’s so-called mandatory repatriation is not working. There is no active intervention on the part of the Philippine government to locate, secure and ensure the safe passage of Filipinos from conflict areas to PH posts. Aside from announcing it, there remains no clear blueprint from the government on how the mandatory repatriation is supposed to take place,” Martinez said.

He said that because of lack of information, some OFWs have resorted to braving the dangerous streets to get to terminals to exit posts. “Their lives are in danger, especially now that the Egypt and Tunisia terminals are closed. Ano’ng ginawa doon ni DFA Sec. Albert del Rosario, nag-walk in the park? There is not a minute to spare, the government should immediately facilitate the evacuation of our Filipinos there. Other nationalities have been evacuated by their governments, ano pa ba ang hinihintay ng gobyerno natin?”said Martinez.

Since violence escalated in Libya, a Filipino construction worker has been beheaded by alleged militants and a Filipina nurse was gang-raped.

“It is way past the time for the government to simply ‘lament’ that Filipinos are not heeding the mandatory repatriation call. They have crossed that line long ago. The Philippine government’s failure to safely secure our kababayans and to facilitate their urgent mass repatriation has caused the atrocity against one Filipina and the gruesome death of a Filipino. It is now time for accountability, the injustice done to them is the BS Aquino government’s fault.

Martinez also said that the slow repatriation process is due to the government’s lack of a sustainable reintegration program for returning overseas Filipino workers. Of present, there are at least 13,000 Filipinos in Libya, while tens of thousands more are based in conflict-riddled Gaza, Iraq, Kuwait and Syria. “We cannot blame our kababayans if they would opt not to return to the Philippines because no jobs, livelihood and security for their families await them here should they decide to return. The government is also mainly accountable for placing our kababayans in the situation they are in now.”

Martinez said that the Crisis Hotline is open to Filipinos in Libya and other conflict-ridden countries such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. ###