OFWs press for Arroyo’s ouster
Two major migrant workers groups launch “No Resign, No Remit” campaign to press for the ouster of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
BY AUBREY SC MAKILAN
“No Resign, No Remit.”
Migrante International and Migrante Sectoral Party (MSP) jointly issued this statement as their members met July 5 to launch Outrage, a broad alliance of migrants, their families and advocates calling for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s ouster. The “No Resign, No Remit” forum was held at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City.
Connie Bragas Regalado, Migrante chair and Outrage spokesperson, told Bulatlat that now Macapagal-Arroyo could no longer say she still has the support of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) because no dollars will flow in to help her government survive.
“Remittances constitute almost 10% of the country’s gross national product (GNP) and it’s the only thing (artificially) keeping the Philippine economy float,” said Roque.
Bragas-Regalado said that remittances last year reached a record-high of US$8.5 billion. The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) estimated it will total up to US$10 billion this year.
The Philippines is the world’s third-largest recipient of remittances, after Mexico and India. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has reported that in 2004 alone annual OFW remittances were three times larger than all the foreign direct investment the Philippines receives.
Instead of the banking channel, Bragas-Regalado said there are other means by which OFWs can remit money to their families in the Philippines. These include the door-to-door delivery services and “padala” (hand-carried) through fellow Filipinos returning to the country.
Migrante, however, discourages OFWs from transacting with jueteng (illegal numbers game) syndicates. Earlier reports revealed there are some OFWs already doing this.
There is less charge incurred in the door-to-door delivery channel, said Gina Esguerra, 34, a former domestic in Hong Kong. She used to pay HK$20-35 in a bank-to bank transaction while only about HK$10-15 in a door-to-door channel.
Bragas-Regalado said that despite the pronouncements of the government that OFWs are the new breed of heroes because they help keep the economy afloat, migrant workers are actually treated unjustly by government.
She accused the President of transferring over P530 million Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) Medicare Funds to Philhealth, another P100 million OFW funds to the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and P100 million to the Land Bank of the Philippines. The transfers were ostensibly for livelihood assistance for migrant workers and their families, and the “ghost evacuation” of Filipinos in the Middle East during the U.S. invasion of Iraq that reportedly cost the country US$253,500.
Aside from these, Bragas-Regalado said that hundreds of migrant workers, mostly those running away from their abusive employers, have been kept stranded in their host countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait. Even Filipino deportees from Sabah received no government assistance, citing results of their recent fact-finding mission.
Citing a recent statement from Health Secretary Francisco Duque, many Philhealth card-holders are unaware that the health insurance will end this year unless renewed. Philhealth cards were reportedly given free to almost eight million poor Filipinos to boost the President’s candidacy in the May 2004 elections.
Faking OFWs support
Meanwhile, the Central Bank of the Philippines and government agencies said the “no resign, no remit” campaign will not prosper. Yet, Bragas-Regalado said, their actions show otherwise.
In Japan, just a few days after Migrante International issued this call, Filipino groups under the Migrante network received a faxed statement from the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) asking for their support for the embattled President.
Entitled, “Statement of Support for President Arroyo,” the letter ends by saying “We call on our fellowmen to rally behind President Arroyo, exercise sobriety, and maintain respect for the Constitution and the rule of law.”
The Migrante-affiliated groups, however, refused to sign and instead faxed a copy to the Migrante International office in Quezon City.
Moreover, a source whom Migrante International refused to identify revealed that about 100 consular officials will meet in the country on July 9 along with foreign businessmen to give support to the administration.
The July 5 forum discussed the paper “Impact of Remittances on the National Economy” by Lou Roque, Executive Director of the International Migrants Resource Center (IMRC); “Graft and Corruption” by Dr. Minguita Padilla, president of Sinag ng Bayan Foundation; and “Remittances as a Form of Protest for Migrants” by Bragas-Regalado.
Petitions and statements from organizations in the United States, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Canada were read and distributed during the forum. Bulatlat