Solution Proves Permanence of OFW Deployment
Macapagal-Arroyo announced last August 3 the upgrading of skills and
knowledge of Filipino domestic helpers who want to work abroad so that
they can become what she described as “supermaids.” The move is said to
address the economic dislocation brought about by the evacuation of
overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) deployed to war-torn Lebanon. This only
shows that the deployment of OFWs is now a permanent arrangement due to
the government’s failure to generate much-needed jobs in the Philippines,
as well as the need to keep the economy afloat through OFW remittances.
BY DANILO ARAÑA ARAO
When President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo expressed last August 4 her “dismay over the deaths of
(two) Filipino women workers while escaping from their employers” in
war-torn Lebanon, she also stressed the need for the forced evacuation of
all Filipinos there given the volatility of the situation.
“We shall not take
any chances with the lives of Filipinos in threat of danger,” she said.
The government’s target of “zero casualty” for OFWs in Lebanon, however,
is hard to achieve for the simple reason that there is no clear accounting
of the actual number of Filipinos in Lebanon. Even the Overseas Workers
Welfare Administration (OWWA) acknowledged that two of every three OFWs
repatriated from Lebanon are undocumented.
explains the discrepancy in the figures. The Philippine Overseas
Employment Agency (POEA) pegs the OFWs deployed to Lebanon at only 14,970
while the recruiters’ group Philippine Association of Mediterranean
Agencies Deploying Labours, Inc. (PAMADEL) has a higher count of 26,146.
Newspaper reports, on the other hand, have higher estimates of Filipinos
working in Lebanon ranging from 30,000 to 34,000.
The ban on deployment
of Filipino workers to “dangerous countries such as Iraq and Lebanon” is
understandable at this point. But instead of encouraging workers to find
gainful employment in the Philippines, the president said that she wants
“selective deployment” of workers to ensure that “they would land jobs
with good working conditions abroad.”
In fact, the
president’s decision to upgrade the skills and knowledge of domestic
helpers so that they can become not just ordinary maids but “supermaids”
is meant for them to command higher salaries more than anything else,
based on her statement last August 3.
decision to continue OFW deployment, even if on a selective basis, and to
deploy “supermaids” in the future reinforces the institutionalization of
labor migration which runs contrary to the claim of the late President
Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s. At that time, Marcos stressed that labor
migration is just a temporary arrangement until such time that the
domestic economy can generate the necessary jobs for Filipinos.
It was during the
Marcos regime, in fact, that the POEA was established in 1982 for the
“marketing and deployment” of Filipinos abroad. Four years after (1986),
the OWWA was created to provide welfare and development assistance to
The years that
followed saw the establishment of migrant-related agencies like the
International Labor Assistance Service (ILAS), Consular Assistance
Division (CAD) and the Commission on Overseas Filipinos (COF). In 2004,
the Office of External Affairs was created to “harness the help of some
three million Filipino immigrants and expatriates in the U.S. West Coast.”
Since the past and
present administrations created an atmosphere conducive for the export of
labor, it is not surprising that the number of deployed OFWs has risen
through the years. In 2005, the POEA estimated that there are 981,677 OFWs,
with Saudi Arabia (193,991), Hong Kong (94,553), United Arab Emirates
(81,707), Taiwan (46,714) and Japan (42,586) as the top five destinations.
actually benefits from the deployment of OFWs not only through their
remittances that amounted to $10.7 billion as of 2005, according to the
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
There are also
pre-departure fees that government collects from each OFW, among them the
POEA processing fee, OWWA welfare fund contribution, OWWA medicare, POEA
Overseas Employment Certificate, Artist Record Book, Seaman’s Book, and
passport processing. During employment, the government collects fees for
passport renewal and visa per extension, among others.
Not surprisingly, the
OWWA is reported to have combined assets as of June 30, 2004 amounting to
P8 billion ($155.28 million, based on an exchange rate of P51.52 per US
dollar), courtesy of various fees collected from OFWs. The OWWA reportedly
collects $25 as membership fee in exchange for its services.
It is in this context
that the local unemployment problem works to the advantage of the
government, as OFW remittances are used to help fulfill the country’s
dollar needs and it earns from various fees prior to and during employment
The deployment of
OFWs therefore is expected to be a permanent arrangement for the present
and even future administrations that prefer not to strengthen the domestic
economy and instead allow the export of labor, notwithstanding the social
cost and dangers endemic to this policy.
This now leads one to
conclude that while it is dangerous to work in war-torn countries like
Lebanon, the government makes it equally dangerous for Filipino workers to
continuously market, promote and deploy them abroad. Bulatlat
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© 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
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