MANILA, Philippines—At least 300 Filipino migrant organizations in 23 countries across the globe participated in Thursday’s Zero Remittance Day protest against the pork barrel and widespread corruption in the Philippine government.
According to Migrante International, overseas Filipinos workers in Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Malaysia, Macau, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Austria, the Netherlands, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States expressed their support and participated in the action.
Spearheaded by Depork! (Overseas Filipinos Demand Abolition of Pork), Zero Remittance Day was a symbolic protest where Filipinos toiling in different parts of the world withheld their remittances to their loved ones in the Philippines for one day to collectively show their outrage at the theft of their hard-earned money in the form of taxes by government officials.
Malacañang earlier downplayed any effects of the protest.
“We won’t be surprised if tomorrow the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) issues manufactured data on remittances sent today to show that the OFWs’ remittances were within the daily average inflow. Then Palace spin doctors will echo that Zero Remittance Day had no impact on the economy,” said John Leonard Monterona of Migrante Middle East-North Africa.
Monterona said the OFWs did not intend to sabotage the economy by withholding their remittance—upon which the government is heavily dependent—for one day. In July alone, the last month with final records, OFWs around the world sent home to loved ones in the Philippines P1.9 billion.
Migrante said they decided to hold the protest on Sept. 19 as the day coincided with the anniversary of the implementation of Overseas Workers Welfare Assistance Omnibus Policies (OOP) that made the $25 Owwa contributions mandatory per contract.
The OOP also limited benefits and services provided by the Owwa to member OFWs, Migrante claimed.
“We raise our call to the government to allocate our taxes and remittances should be allocated to social services and greater state subsidies for OFWs in distress,” said Connie Bragas-Regalado, one of the convenors of Depork!
Garry Martinez of Migrante and also a Depork! convenor said Zero Remittance Day was just the beginning.
“More global protests are coming and OFWs are geared up for longer zero remittance days in the next weeks,” said Martinez.
OFWs who were home from Saudi Arabia, Macau, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Syria and Dubai, together with their families, held a rally at Mendiola on Thursday in support of Zero Remittance Day.