How about OFWs’ dreams? Migrante asks Aquino

Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez today described Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s first State of the Nation Address as “matabang (bland), stating the obvious and empty in merit.”

“Aquino said that we can dream again but there was no mention at all of plans that would give hope to millions of our OFWs. What of the dreams of those 102 in death row, 1,665 victims of human trafficking, hundreds in jail, more than 10,000 stranded in other countries and the six to 10 remains of OFWs arriving at the NAIA every day?” Martinez said.

He said that OFWs worldwide are “very disappointed” with Aquino’s speech especially since they expected the president to deliver concrete plans for migrants after Aquino’s “special mention” during his inaugural address.

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He said that Aquino failed to mention how he would immediately address much-needed assistance and protection for OFWs in distress. “We were not shocked at all by the figures he brandished, we were expecting them after nine years of Gloria Arroyo. But he failed to mention ‘figures that are a matter of life and death’ for our OFWs.”

Among them, he cited the much-needed release of the P150 million repatriation and legal assistance funds from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), as well as the imperative investigation of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) funds which have been subject to numerous allegations of misuse and corruption.

The mandatory $25 OFW contributions to OWWA are said to have reached P12 billion this year, on top of other compulsory fees imposed on OFWs.

Intensified labor export

“Sa kanyang speech, mukhang malalaking negosyante at foreign investors lang ang pwedeng mangarap (In his speech, it seems that only big businesses and foreign investors are allowed to dream).”

“Public-private partnership in deference to foreign investments and our continuing dependence on export is precisely the blueprint for forced migration and cheap labor export. It has come to a point where our very own labor force are being utilized to cater to foreign and multinational demands or their services outright exported as if they were produce,” he said.

Martinez said that they were waiting for Aquino to categorically state that he would deviate from the past Arroyo administration’s labor export policy and focus instead on national industrialization and genuine land reform. “But from the looks of it, his thrust to intensify privatization, commercialization and adherence to the global market further douses all hopes for our OFWs.”

He said that the development of national industries and agriculture is very essential in stopping forced migration. “It would stop the general sense of desperation and hopelessness that have been driving our people to ‘dream the impossible dream’ abroad.”

There are currently 11 million OFWs and an estimated 3,800 leaving the country at a daily rate. OFW remittances have kept the economy afloat amid fiscal deficit and the global economic crisis. Remittances have reached record-high levels at $1.6 billion last May. #

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