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Migrante: Aquino’s 1st year in office worst for OFWs

MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino’s first year in office was “arguably the worst year” for overseas Filipino workers with thousands losing jobs in Libya and the Middle East, and the execution of three Filipinos in China, the militant migrants’ group Migrante International said Monday.

Garry Martinez, Migrante International chair, said the Aquino administration failed to immediately evacuate and repatriate OFWs affected by conflicts in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East-North Africa region, and also those affected by calamities and disasters in Japan and New Zealand.

“Since Aquino took his oath it has been especially more grueling for OFWs and their families. He specifically promised to give special attention to OFWs in his inaugural speech but what we have experienced is the complete opposite,” Martinez said.

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“Aquino’s first year may just be the worst year for OFWs and their families, and policy-wise, there are no indications that things will get better,” he added.

Martinez said that, for the first time in years, three Filipinos were executed simultaneously in China, and the number of Filipinos in death row increased from 108 to 122.

He added that Aquino also committed “blunders” that threatened the wellbeing of OFWs in Hong Kong (thru the Manila hostage tragedy), Taiwan (with the deportation of Taiwanese nationals to China) and China (conflict over the Spratly Islands).

Martinez said Aquino had committed to create jobs at home and to uphold the policy of not pursuing overseas employment as a development strategy and instead establish concrete policies and steps towards more sustainable alternatives.

However, the number of Filipino workers jobless and not earning enough from their jobs rose to nearly 12 million in April 2011, Martinez said.

The government offered nothing concrete for tens of thousands of returned OFWs from Libya and the possible influx of hundreds of thousands more from the Middle East in light of the “Saudization policy”, he said.

“Instead, it continues to showcase a more blatant and unapologetic labor export policy that aims to further exploit OFWs’ cheap labor and foreign remittances,” he added.

Martinez said Aquino committed to improve and enhance the government’s services and resources for OFWs and their families but the budgets for the Legal Assistance Fund and Assistance to Nationals at the Department of Foreign Affairs budget “suffered an unprecedented decrease” in 2010.

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“These are glaring examples of how insincere, insensitive and inept the Aquino government is in upholding and securing the protection and welfare of OFWs, while ironically also showcasing a more blatant and unapologetic labor export policy that exploits OFWs’ cheap labor and foreign remittances,” Martinez said.

“Through these all, it has become more apparent that Aquino is no different from (former President) Arroyo,” he added.

Martinez said more fee were also imposed on OFWs, including the mandatory Pag-Ibig contribution, the increase in e-Passport fees, mandatory insurance coverage, affidavit of support, and other requirements for the Overseas Employment Contract.

“There is a lack of a comprehensive and sustainable program for returned OFWs and their families. What the government offers are mere dole-outs and band-aid solutions that are not long-term solutions to unemployment, low wages and lack of social services,” he said.

Martinez said Migrante chapters in Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Middle East, Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the US held simultaneous protest actions to mark Aquino’s second State of the Nation Address.

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TAGS: Employment, government and politics, Labor, migrant workers, OFW, Overseas employment, SONA 2011
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