Today, June 7, is government-declared ‘Migrant Workers’ Day’.
‘Migrant Workers’ Day’ is commemorated by the PH govt. every year in recognition to the vast economic contributions of OFWs, which is the billions of remittances they’ve sent yearly that is keeping the economy afloat. The remittance sent by OFWs is equivalent to 10% of our country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). But notably, it’s just a celebration by the PH govt. and concerned agencies lead by the Department of Labor and Employment and its adjunct agencies such as the POEA and OWWA. These agencies are at the forefront of the government’s Labor Export Program (LEP), which is actually peddling cheap of Filipino human resources noting the increasing numbers of unemployed and underemployed Filipinos whose numbers reached to 10-M since January 2013 as per NSCB statistics.
For us, we have nothing to celebrate during ‘Migrants Workers Day’. There still rampant cases of OFWs rights violations, labor malpractices, abuses, and maltreatment especially in the Middle East. We have been receiving 8 to 10 cases daily involving OFWs in the Middle East. Hundreds of OFWs and would-be OFWs have become victims of human trafficking and illegal recruiters. Thousands were undocumented who have been seeking legalization and others repatriation. On-site services and welfare programs by the government are still wanting.
In our colloquial term, the yearly celebration of ‘Migrant Workers’ Day’ is merely a ‘pampalubag-loob’. The OFWs still remain marginalized.
Thus, there is nothing to celebrate and there should be no ‘Migrant Workers’ Day’. The OFW phenomenon is a by-product of a dire economic situation of the many Filipinos who were forced to leave the country to find jobs and eventually work abroad. This OFW phenomenon is a clear indication of the country’s worsening joblessness. And yet the PH govt. is boosting that they have peddled around 2-M OFWs since 2012 amid the so called Arab Spring, Saudization, and constriction of the labor market in other countries.
Local jobs generation, on-site protection, more welfare programs and services, combating human trafficking and illegal recruitment should be given full attention and these issues should be discussed during OFWs summit, instead of holding ‘Migrant Workers’ Day’.
The services and other related activities in the legalization and repatriation of the 10,000 undocumented OFWs in Saudi Arabia (6,500 in Jeddah, and 3,500 in Riyadh) who have sought assistance to the PH embassy and consulate are still wanting or not enough noting that the 90-day grace period given by the Saudi authorities will end on July 3. There were around 200 have been repatriated from Saudi Arabia so far out of the 10,000 OFWs who have sought assistance.
A thousand of the stranded OFWs at the Tent City in Jeddah have been complaining of lack of supply of food, water, sanitation, and other needs of the sick and old OFWs, and of the OFWs children.
We doubt of the fixing of the documentation of the 10,000 stranded OFWs could be completed by July 3given the lack of embassy and consulate staff attending and providing assistance to stranded OFWs. In fact, Migrante-Middle East and North Africa (MENA) issued a statement appealing to Saudi authorities to consider to provide an extension to the 90-day grace period citing humanitarian consideration and the huge numbers of undocumented migrants in Saudi Arabia to reach around 3-M including our OFWs, and the slow processing of documentation by the Saudi authorities.
To put an end to Filipino forced migration or the so called OFW phenomenon and OFWs woes, the govt. should be serious in improving the local economy such that it can generate enough jobs with decent wages and benefits. Economic growth and development could only be attained with Nationalization of PH basic industries and honest-to-goodness implementation or distribution of lands to the majority of our population, the farmers. These two, nationalization of basic industries and genuine agrarian distribution, will serve as our strong economic backbone that will lead our country to economic development that is inclusive and will benefit all social strata and sectors of the PH society. Unfortunately, this is not the economic thrust of the current Aquino III administration; just like previous administrations, it blindly adheres to US neoliberal policies of globalization such as liberalization, privatization, deregulation, and denationalization that is preventing our economic development precisely because our country’s resources (natural and human resources) have been sucked in by US and other global powers’ multinational and transnational corporations who have long been dominating PH industries and economy.