“To be an OFW under Aquino gov’t is fate worse than death” Zero Remittance Day set on Dec18

Migrante International expressess its deepest condolences and sympathies to the family of the 35-year-old Filipino executed in China on this fateful day. The entire Filipino nation grieves with them and comes together in indignation with the Philippine government’s failure to save their lives.

Once again, the execution of our kababayan highlights how Filipinos are victimized many times over by a system that continues to drive them towards life and death situations.

No Filipino goes out of the country with a death wish. When the 80 Filipinos with death convictions for drug-related crimes went to China, when kidnap victim Mark Ramos flew to Afghanistan, when the 122 others on death row and more than 7,000 in jails abroad went abroad, they were full of hopes and dreams to provide a better future for their families, especially for their children.

Our 12 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), likewise, were compelled to leave the country to seek so-called greener pastures abroad in the absence of jobs, livelihood and decent living conditions in the Philippines. Unfortunately, this crisis of forced migration continues to be aggravated by the Aquino government’s promotion and advancement of a labor export policy that has become more systematic and sophisticated over the decades.

The past year under the Aquino administration has been the worst year for our OFWs – the execution of four Filipinos in China, civil wars and wars of aggression in Libya and looming elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa region, massive unemployment and retrenchment, immigration crackdowns brought about by the present global debt crisis, piracy and accidents underscoring the sorry plight of our seafarers and multiple environmental disasters all over the world.

Combined with the continuing onslaught of a global economic crisis that is translated into unending spates of price hikes and the Aquino administration’s intensification of privatization, liberalization and deregulation policies in favor of foreign interests as reflected in budget cuts on OFW services and imposition of exorbitant fees, these are arguably the worst of times for our 15 million OFWs and their families.

Indeed, to be an OFW under the Aquino administration has become a fate worse than death.

On December 18, we will make our dissent and discontent felt. On December 18, overseas Filipinos all over the world will launch a Zero Remittance Day.

The Aquino government’s consequent actions and overall economic and political programs bare the sad fact of how our OFWs are being treated as cheap commodities for export. The present predicament of our OFWs are glaring examples of just how insincere, insensitive and inept the Aquino government is in upholding and securing the protection and welfare of our workers overseas, while ironically also showcasing a more blatant and unapologetic labor export policy that exploits our OFWs’ cheap labor and influx of remittances but sadly offers them nothing in return, especially in times of need.

Migrante International strongly believes that for as long as the labor export policy is in force there can be no genuine protection for our OFWs. Government programs and policies, through the continuance of the labor export policy, will not serve to protect and uphold OFWs’ rights but only exist to further exploit and abuse.

What our OFWs and their families need during these hard times are actions and programs from the government that would enforce the creation of jobs at home and ease the onslaught of price hikes in order to curb, if not stop, forced migration. What our OFWs and their families need from the government during these hard times are fundamental and radical reforms that would deviate from the government’s continued implementation of the labor export policy.

Kung hindi, lagi’t lagi na lang tayong maghihintay ng araw ng bitay. Lagi’t lagi na lang nagkukumahog at hindi handa ang gobyerno kapag may gera, sakuna o kaguluhan sa ibang bansa. Lagi’t lagi na lang na walang ibang pag-asa ang mga kababayan natin kundi makipagsapalaran sa ibang bansa, sa kabila ng panganib, pambubusabos at pagkawalay nila sa kanilang mga mahal sa buhay.

Sadly, despite all these, OFWs are still forced to go abroad because the government has offered them nothing substantive and sustainable to address their families’ economic needs. Instead, what it has offered are mere dole-outs and band-aid solutions that do nothing to address widespread unemployment and landlessness, the root causes of forced migration.

On December 18, OFWs from different parts of the world will converge in the Philippines for a big mobilization for International Migrants’ Day. Chapters of Migrante all over the world will also hold simultaneous actions to protest government neglect of OFWs and the Aquino administration’s continuous implementation of a labor export policy. ###