The Philippine government has every reason to be worried. With countries such as the United States, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates that are all in the top 10 sources of remittances of Filipino migrants participating in the call for zero-remittance day, there can be no doubt that the GFMD and the GMA administration would be shaken.
BY RONALYN OLEA
The International Migrants Alliance (IMA), an alliance composed of 112 grassroots migrants’ organizations worldwide, has declared October 29 as Zero Remittance Day.
On that day, thousands of migrants from different nationalities from different countries would not send home remittances as a protest to the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD).
The date coincides with the opening of the GFMD to be held here in the Philippines. The IMA will hold a counter assembly titled International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR).
The IMA branded the GFMD as an ‘elitist and anti-migrant.’ The group said GFMD’s sole objective is ‘to consolidate and legitimize attacks on migrants’ rights and welfare.’
“The GFMD cannot be expected to become a significant tool to its supposed stakeholders, migrant workers themselves, when it fails to tackle the fundamental problems and issues concerning the unprecedented growing number of migrants,” the group said.
The group said further, “Migration as a tool for development is a fallacy. Migration, at the expense of migrants worldwide, would only serve to benefit developed First World nations. It would not end poverty and joblessness resulting in the forced migration of peoples of poor countries.”
Meanwhile, Dolores Balladares, chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-HK) said, “Zero remittance is our way of saying that we have zero confidence that our issues will be addressed and our rights will be genuinely protected by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) and the GFMD.”
Balladares said the recent policies of the GMA government for OFWs such as the mandatory psychiatric testing, the documentary stamp tax on remittances and the mandatory insurance policy are ‘omens of more anti-migrant rules to come’ She said that protection of migrants and promotion of our welfare are nowhere in GMA’s policy.
Filipino migrants across the globe have expressed their support for the Zero Remittance Day.
The US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or Bayan-USA, an alliance of 12 Filipino organizations across five US cities, has endorsed the international call to Filipinos in the US.
Chito Quijano, chairperson of Bayan-USA said, “We support the call of IMA for a day of no remittance because we believe the Philippine model of out-migration is not an example to be proud of.” He said that the ‘massive and aggressive out migration of over 3,000 Filipinos daily is an indicator of domestic economic failure, not development.’
“By not remitting for one day, Filipinos all over the world harness their economic power and take a stand against the sick and oppressive nature of the Philippine labor export program,” said Quijano.
In 2007, 51 percent of overseas remittances to Philippine banks came from the United States, amounting to $14.5 billion US dollars. There are approximately four million Filipinos living in the United States today, making it the largest overseas Filipino population in the world.
Quijano said that despite strong outpouring of remittances from the US, Filipinos in the US still face harsh conditions related to immigration, including unjust raids and deportations, massive job lay-offs, curtailment of civil rights, and many other issues that the Philippine government has always ignored.
“We literally save the Philippine economy everyday from sinking by our dollar remittances, and corrupt politicians have been enjoying their pork barrels fueled by our hard-earned dollars, without any action taken when migrants need their advocacy overseas,” Quijano added.
Filipinos from the US will be attending the IAMR in Manila. Protest actions in the US will also take place in support of Zero Remittance Day.