The Migrant Heritage Commission said it is high-time for the government to change its development paradigm, especially in the wake of reports that 1,000 Filipino teachers in Prince Georges County and Baltimore in Maryland are facing deportation.
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — The deadline for development was yesterday.
A migrant organization based in Washington DC in the United States has called on the Benigno Aquino III government to focus its effort at developing local industries in the Philippines by promoting science and research programs instead of relying on labor export to sustain the economy.
In a statement, the Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) said, it is high-time for the government to change its development paradigm.
The MHC is a service institution for immigrants in the US, which is providing for their legal, education, cultural development, and information needs. It provides assistance to Filipinos with immigration and labor cases.
The group said the worsening global economic meltdown that had its flashpoint in the US severely affects Filipino workers abroad. It cited the cases of retrenchment of some 1,000 Filipino teachers in Maryland and the discontinuation of hiring of Filipino nurses in the US.
“These massive dislocations are an indication that labor exportation cannot be the sole paradigm of development. It should make us realize that we have to go back to our own issues, and develop our own local economy where families could stay together and need not leave the children in order to respond to basic necessities,” said MHC co-executive director Jesse Gatchalian.
Human rights lawyer Arnedo Valera, co-executive director, said the Philippines continues to be poor because of the absence of locally-based industries that spawn jobs and create self-reliance.
Valera criticized the Philippine government’s continued reliance on labor exportation as a way to sustain the economy. He cited reports from the Department of Labor and Employment showing that an average of 2700 Filipinos leave the country everyday to work overseas.
“The dollar remittances of these overseas Filipinos are mainly used for consumption and education to propel the same kind of system,” Valera said. He said having an economic system reliant on remittances from abroad makes for a vulnerable economy.
“It does not create a long-term solid foundation of industrial strength and stability,” he said.
Dollar remittances comprise 10 to 13 percent of all Philippine revenues. The Philippine Central Bank, however, has reported that between 2008 and 2010, these remittances have gone down by some 25 percent because of the effects of the global recession.
Need to increase budgets for agriculture and health
According to the MHC, the Philippine government should provide sufficient budget for scientific projects and researches, particularly on agriculture and health.
Valera said the Philippines has rich and vast natural resources, but majority still live in poverty.
“Why aren’t we developing our coconut industry, for example, when we have so much coconut? We could already have a coconut winery by now, as great as the wineries of California and Paris. Or our malunggay or moringa grows in our backyards. Why have other countries like Malaysia and the US have developed health supplements from malunggay and we haven’t ? We need to focus on what our country has and develop our own resources and people,” he said.
Valera also said Aquino should convene a conference of Philippine scientists, economists, non-government organizations, and people’s organizations to help him address this issue.
“Our focus should be science and technology, industrialization, higher wages and meeting the basic needs of our people. The country is rich in natural resources, and the sector of scientists and researchers has been known for scientific breakthroughs in the field of medicine and industrial development which other countries have actually used and developed,” he pointed out.
Recruited teachers to be deported
The MHC released its appeal to President Aquino in the wake of reports that 1,000 Filipino teachers in Prince Georges County and Baltimore in Maryland are facing deportation.
Earlier in August, Ambassador to Washington Jose Cuisia Jr. discussed the issue with US Ambassador to Manila Harry Thomas Jr. when the latter went to Washington DC. Cuisia also aired concerns regarding the issuance of visas to Filipino physical therapists.
Since August, Filipino teachers and their supporters have been holding protests and other activities to decry what they said as the US Department of Labor and the Prince George’s County Public Schools’ injustice against the teachers. The teachers even held a picket in front of the White House. The teachers are being forced to return to the Philippines or face deportation.
According to reports, the teachers from the Philippines were recruited by Prince George’s County Public School district in Maryland, but the school allegedly charged illegally various fees from the teachers’ wages. Investigations revealed that the back pay of each teacher amounts to at least $4,000.
Instead of laying down sanctions against the school, however, the labor department barred the teachers from participation in the H1-B or the green card visa program for two years and threatened that they would be made to pay a $100,000 fine.. Currently, some 957 Filipino teachers are scheduled to lose their jobs as their visas are about to expire. They are being forced to leave the US or stand to become undocumented immigrants.
A report from the Asian Journal report stated that many of the affected teachers were in the process of filing for green cards. They had already purchased properties in the US.
Other migrant organizations have also thrown their support behind the teachers.
“It’s a travesty that these victimized teachers who have successfully raised the standard of education in the PG county are now unceremoniously dismissed without regard to their performance or seniority,” said Joanna Quiambao from Katarungan, a Filipino-American grassroots human rights organization. “This is how some foreign workers become undocumented through no fault of their own.”
Pilipino Educators Network of PG county Carlo Parapara in the meantime said they will continue to pursue all legal channels to appeal the decision.
“But because of the urgency of the situation, the teachers have been pushed to take to the streets and do what we do best: educate the public and authorities on the issue. For the teachers fortunate to still have a job and reporting back to their classes later this week, we found it important to plan this picket to show our solidarity with our brothers and sisters that are not so lucky,” he said.