Remittances from OFWs prop up the economy of the country. According to Migrante, in 2010, remittances constituted 8.7 percent of the Gross National Product (GNP), surpassing the share of traditional exports. World Bank places the Philippines as the fourth biggest remittance-receiving country next to India, China and Mexico.
Despite the global economic crisis, remittances from OFWs remain at record-highs from 2001 to 2011. “Statistics from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) show that it had received a whopping $20 billion by end of 2011, from $18.8 billion in 2010 and $17.3 billion in 2009. During the first five months of 2011, an estimated $7.9 billion were remitted, 6.18 percent higher than remittances during the same period in 2010.”
Migrante attributed the high remittance to factors such as: (a) OFWs compensate for the depreciation of the dollar by sending more money to their families back home; (b) OFWs get two to three jobs to offset the effects of the crisis in host countries; (c) OFWs resort to more borrowings to be able to send money home; (d) OFWs are now sending the savings they had acquired over the years, if any; and (e) the number of undocumented OFWs sending remittances back home has increased.
Top five remittance-sending countries are the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom and Japan. Thirty to 40 percent of the 99 million population of the country now relies on the remittance of their relatives abroad.
Migrante chairman Garry Martinez criticized the government for neglecting OFWs despite their significant contribution to the economy. Among the cases of government neglect of OFWs, Martinez said, is the case of stranded OFWs in Syria, where nearly 200 OFWs are still in the Philippine Embassy waiting for repatriation.
“While the government relies on the remittances of our OFWs to keep the economy afloat, there are still many cases of abused OFWs because the government continues to neglect them,” Martinez said in the forum.
Contrary to Aquino’s commitment to protect OFWs and their families, many of them are still in dire situations.
Migrante said it is only under Aquino where four Filipinos were executed abroad in one year. The number of Filipinos on death row has also increased from 108 to 123 and 7,000 Filipinos are languishing in jails abroad without legal assistance. At least 20,000 are stranded and awaiting repatriation in the Middle East.
Direct services to OFWs also suffer as its budget was slashed by 18 percent in the 2012 national budget. This will greatly affect the 15 million OFWs abroad, said Martinez.
Also under Aquino, OFWs suffered more state exactions throughout the whole migration cycle. Migrante estimates that OFWs spend an average of P20,000 ($465) for processing of their requirements. Since 2010 however, the government had imposed numerous fees on OFWs, pre and post departure. The e-passport fee, mandatory Pag-ibig contributions, Philhealth premium cost, mandatory medical insurance, Affidavit of Support fees, among many others had increased.
State exactions, according to Migrante, have caused indebtedness among OFWs and their families. Martinez said the integration program of the Overseas Workers Welfare does not even help OFWs.
“The problem is here in our country, as well as the solution. Our call is clear: jobs here in the Philippines and not abroad.”
Martinez said OFWs should work hand in hand in making Aquino account for his neglect of OFWs, as well as the rest of the people. Martinez calls on OFWs to join them in a protest action on June 30 when Aquino celebrates his second year as president. “There are still many more OFWs to look for, some have died and some are alive and in jail. We should not take this for granted,” Martinez said.