MANILA, Philippines—Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), who for so long had propped up the Philippine economy with their hard-earned foreign exchange, may just miss out on the economic gains the country is now reaping as they find it necessary to continue toiling abroad, reelectionist Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said Tuesday.
Cayetano, a candidate of the administration Team PNoy coalition, suggested the government take advantage of the positive economic climate and make loans available to OFWs and their families so they could start businesses and not have to take jobs overseas.
“We call them modern-day heroes. They propped up the country when the economy was bad. Now that the economy is improving, it seems that they are still encountering difficulties,” Cayetano told the Inquirer in a phone interview from Hong Kong.
Cayetano brought his campaign to the Filipino absentee voters, many of them domestic workers, in the Chinese territory over the weekend.
According to his media staff, Cayetano had lunch with Filipino workers at their usual Sunday gathering at Statue Square. He then attended a campaign rally of Migrante, the party-list group that represents Filipino migrant workers.
On Monday, Cayetano visited the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong to discuss with its officials the problems that OFWs face.
“While placement fees are already illegal back home [in the Philippines], there are still OFWs who are charged their monthly salaries to pay for these fees,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano learned from the domestic workers that they were sometimes required by their employment agencies to cough up cash for bogus requirements that replaced the “placement fee” that was declared illegal in 2006.
The senator said that while many OFWs sent home enough money to take care of their immediate families’ needs, other relatives who also depend on them cut into their funds.
“There must be [loans] available to their families so the families could start businesses even when they are still abroad,” Cayetano said.
He said OFWs’ families must have sufficient income at home “so their children will not have to go abroad to work just like them.”
“The biggest thing that I realized while listening to our OFWs here in Hong Kong is that if they had opportunities for employment in the Philippines, they would opt to stay home instead of leaving their families just to be able to feed them,” Cayetano said.
He called on the Aquino administration to focus on generating jobs under the current good economic conditions.
After posting a 6.6-percent economic growth rate in 2012, the country was given its first ever investment grade rating by credit agency Fitch in late March. This has made the Philippines more attractive to foreign investors.