“Overseas Filipinos continue to leave the Philippines under the labour export policy, driven by many social and political problems, such as poverty, lack of jobs, landlessness, the lack of accessible health care and other social benefits.”
Sidebar story: Activist Filipina caregiver heads migrants group in Canada
By ERIE MAESTRO
Migrante Canada held its 4th Congress in British Columbia (BC) on February 10 with over 100 delegates from its 21 member chapters from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ottawa, Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba.
Under the theme “Consolidate and strengthen the alliance to better serve Filipino migrants in Canada and to resist the US-Duterte fascist regime!”, members were joined by observers and guests including migrant workers, unions, faith-based groups, youth and students, women’s groups, migrants and peoples organizations, and the academic community. A delegation from Seattle, United States also showed support.
The 4th congress of the Canada-wide alliance began with a moving tribute to Migrante member Petronila Cleto who passed away on January 11. Tess Agustin, Migrante Canada outgoing chairperson, presented the gains and challenges of the group’s member organizations from 2015 to 2017.
Social activist and International Director of independent think tank IBON Foundation Antonio Tujan delivered the keynote speech tackling migrants’ struggles in the context of the Philippine national situation and the global imperialist crisis.
Solidarity greetings from the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), other Migrante chapters across the globe, the East Indian Defense League and Rev. Stu Lyster of Churches Witnessing Migrants kept the members’ spirits high. Coni Ledesma, a member of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace negotiating panel provided an update on the peace negotiations between the NDFP and the government of the Philippines.
Migrante congress delegates collectively worked together and passed a three-year General Program of Action (GPoA) that reflected the theme of the congress. Member groups also passed resolutions including one that supports the use of information technology to the advantage of Filipinos abroad. Among the measures include the promotion of the new computer application Compass. According to Mikhail Alfonso Agcaoili, Compass PH Safeguarding Global Migrants co-founder, Compass is an application that “aims to unify and galvanize various groups and organizations towards upholding the quality of life of Global Pinoys, whether in distress or not. It will allow convenient access to services and features that are truly relevant for migrant workers, their families, friends and potential employers accessible through multiple channels and devices.” Agcaoili said that one important feature of the application is the SOS or Emergency Response button “that migrant workers, wherever they are, can alert the Compass community that they are in need of help or assistance.”
Carrying the new GPoA forward is the new set of elected officers of Migrante Canada — Maria Sol Pajadura (Chair), Aimee Beboso (Vice-Chair), Joselito Calugay (General Secretary), Jane Ordinario (Treasurer) and Marco Luciano (Solidarity Officer).
The newly-elected chairperson said, “Overseas Filipinos continue to leave the Philippines under the labour export policy, driven by many social and political problems, such as poverty, lack of jobs, landlessness, the lack of accessible health care and other social benefits.”
She noted that current figures estimate 6,000 Filipinos leave for jobs overseas. “One of the important tasks that we need to do in order to meet our overall objectives is to work hard to increase the number of member organizations in the alliance. So go forth and multiply and advance our militant struggle against tyranny and fascism and towards genuine economic development and peace in the Philippines,” she added.
The congress ended on a high note with a cultural and solidarity night with performances from Migrante Canada organizations, professor and poet Nora Angeles, classical-trained tenor Jeremiah Carag, the Solidarity Notes Labour Choir, and songwriter and cultural worker Levy Abad.