The migrant leader said, “Hindi kailanman magdudulot ng pag-unlad ang pwersahang migrasyon.” (Forced migration has never resulted in the development of a country)
Moreover, Martinez said the Arroyo administration violates Sec. 2, letter (i) of the law which states, “Government fees and other administrative costs of recruitment, introduction, placement and assistance to migrant workers shall be rendered free…”
He said that aspiring OFWs are charged with numerous fees. Based on the group’s computations, a Filipino seeking overseas employment needs to pay P17,000 ($350 at the current exchange rate of $1=P48.565) for documents. With more than 3,000 Filipinos leaving the country each day, Migrante said, the government collects around P53 million ($1,091,320) per day or P19 billion ($391,228250) per year from these exactions.
Martinez said that an OFW must also pay US$25 as membership fee to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to be able to access government services abroad.
He criticized OWWA Resolution No. 038 or the OWWA Omnibus Policies which states that OWWA membership is valid only for as long as the OFW has a valid employment contract. In the case of voluntary members who register on-site, membership coverage shall not exceed two (2) years.
“Kahit singko, walang benepisyong makukuha kung wala nang kontrata,” (A member could not collect even a single centavo in benefits if he or she does not have a valid contract.) retorted Martinez. He cited the case of an OFW who had been a member of OWWA for 21 years. The said worker filed for disability benefits but the OWWA refused to give him any financial assistance.
Martinez further said that even as the Philippine government ratified the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, the Arroyo administration continues to abandon distressed OFWs.
Martinez said that OFWs who run away from their employers because of physical or sexual abuse are often charged with absconding. The Philippine Embassies and Consulates, Martinez added, could not do anything when employers and/or recruitment agencies withhold the passports and other documents of OFWs.
He said further that settlement of the cases usually end up in signing of waivers on all courses of actions against the employers. Worse, Martinez said, Philippine government officials often facilitate these settlements, which are unfavorable to the workers.