23 July 2010
We urge PNoy to make his first SONA different from that of the previous administration that was replete with empty rhetoric and motherhood statements. Our issues are concrete, our calls are clear and these should not be drowned in mere promises: lower passport fee and issue OEC without pre-requisite now.
This call was issued today by the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK) as President Ninoy Aquino prepares for his first State of the Nation Address or SONA next week.
“OFWs have concrete issues that will not be satisfied by promises alone. On his SONA, what we want to hear are not feel-good statements on protection and service. What we want to hear from PNoy are orders for foreign posts to charge the same passport fee as in the Philippines and an order for the POEA to issue OEC without pre-conditions,” said Dolores Balladares, chairperson of the group.
Balladares said that PNoy can immediately issue such orders as these can just be executive decisions.
“Each day that passes means more OFWs overcharged for passport and for OEC. We call on for the President to immediately relieve us of these burdens starting Monday,” she remarked.
OFW groups including Migrante International in the Philippines and the UNIFIL in HK have exposed the overpricing of electronic passports issued in Philippine overseas posts including Hong Kong. According to Balladares, e-passports abroad are pegged at US$60 or more than three times the price in the Philippines.
“Why is the price of passport different when applied in the Philippines and when obtained abroad? They use the same material and they have the same number of pages. Even if it is issued overseas, there is no way that each passport will cost more than 200% the price in the Philippines because of it,” Balladares said.
Additionally, Balladares said that posts abroad also overprice the already “overpriced” passports after its conversion to the local currency. For example, passports in Hong Kong actually cost US$66 after prevailing conversion rate. Posts in Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, collect US64 per passport.
“Such overpricing concretely shows that overseas Filipinos are the favorite targets for extortion schemes,” she stated.
Aside from calling for the reduction in passport price, the group also called for an investigation of allegations of irregularities and corruption on the bidding and production of the e-passport. They said that it while it is good that the failings of the GMA regime are exposed, the Aquino government should also present solutions to the people. “If he wants to clean the slate, then all the dirt of the GMA administration should be investigated and corrected,”Balladares stressed.
Meanwhile, OWWA membership as a requirement for an OEC, Balladares said, is also highly-irregular.
“There is no law that says that OWWA membership is mandatory for an OEC. To refuse to issue an OEC that OFWs use to get exempted from paying travel tax and airport fee because of such arbitrary requirement is a violation of the labour law that mandates such exemption,” she stated.
Balladares said that these issues are some of the concerns that they will discuss in the All-President’s Meeting of OFW groups in HK this Sunday. The meeting will gather about 120 leaders from various associations of Filipinos.
“The state of the migrants needs action. This is what we shall await to hear from PNoy,” she concluded.
Dolores Balladares, Chairperson, UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK